Britney’s Over, Here Comes Alicia vs. Celine | John Lennon Rare Track Used for Commercial | Tears for Kanye; 'Lambs' Skewered Worse Than Thought; 'Lion' Dethroned | Neverland Nevermore: Jacko's PR Lies | Linda Stein: She's the Victim, Not the Villian | Bon Jovi's 10th Commandment

Britney's Over, Here Comes Alicia vs. Celine

Tuesday was the day Britney Spears' “Blackout” album was supposed to have been released. Remember “Blackout”? It was so two weeks ago! The CD is No. 30 right now on Amazon.com and falling fast off the charts.

That leaves three divas for tomorrow, two of whom will get big PR pushes. Alicia Keys has her spectacular “As I Am” album hitting stores, while Celine Dion is returning after four years with “Taking Chances.”

And then, with less fanfare but just as important, Aretha Franklin’s got her Duets album called "Jewels in the Crown." There are a couple of new tracks with Fantasia and John Legend, as well as some recent chart hits with Annie Lennox (the great “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves”), George Michael ("I Knew You Were Waiting for Me"), plus Keith Richards, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, Frank Sinatra and Mary J Blige. It’s a must-have for any music fan.

All three releases are from Sony BMG, the latter two from the BMG end of things.

In the main arena, though, it’s Alicia vs. Celine, since Britney ran scared out of the room. Her “Blackout” is pretty much of a dud now, 13 days after release. Maybe because they couldn’t do promotion or interview, Jive Records seems to have called it a day. When the single “Gimme More’ stalled 10 days ago, they should have gone to another track. They had plenty from which to choose. But nothing’s happened, and the momentum is gone.

Alicia’s CD, as I’ve written before, could not be better. It’s a picture of young genius that’s reminiscent of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye or even Aretha.

“Superwoman,” a nod to Stevie, is a remarkable ballad that will blaze on radio when it’s released. But right now, Keys is on the top of the charts with the anthemic “No One,” which has a hook so memorable it’s hard to get it out of your head.

“Like You’ll Never See Me Again” is coming as the follow-up. There are at least five singles, maybe six, from “As I Am,” that should carry the album through the 2009 Grammys.

Celine is another story. She says she’s “taking chances,” but mostly she sounds like she’s taking Ambien. It’s a very poorly sequenced album, too. The two hottest tracks, called “Can’t Fight the Feeling” and “Just Fade Away,” are buried on the CD at No. 11 and 14, respectively. They should have been at 1 and 3, or 2 and 4 at the very least.

Instead, “Taking Chances” sounds initially like a lush Enya-based dream with the exception of a Linda Perry track at No. 4 called “My Love.” (No matter whether Alicia or Celine does better, Perry is the winner for her work on both albums.) Sony should get right on that “Fade Away” track and fast.

One good thing about “Taking Chances”: Celine is no longer pretending to be a co-writer on the songs. In the past, she and husband Rene Angelil demanded a songwriting credit and a slice of the publishing from contributors. If they’re still taking the kickback, it’s at least not in the byline.

Celine appears on “Oprah” on Monday. It’s her only shot at finding an audience. Whether she keeps one beyond that is another matter.

John Lennon Rare Track Used for Commercial

Is it possible? It seems like Yoko Ono has licensed a rare John Lennon track for a JC Penney commercial.

"Real Love" was a Lennon track that was re-recorded by the living Beatles several years ago to make a single for their Anthology project.

But the real "Real Love" track is a beautiful, haunting solo with Lennon accompanying himself on piano. It appears on a Lennon greatest hits album called "Wonsaponatime."

Beatles songs are rarely heard on commercials, and always re-recorded by studio singers. The Beatles as a rule do not license master recordings. For Ono to license a Lennon recording, and such an extraordinary one, is really outrageous.

Tears for Kanye; 'Lambs' Skewered Worse Than Thought; 'Lion' Dethroned

Condolences to Kanye West on the sudden passing of his mother, Dr. Donda West, chairwoman of the English Department at Chicago State University.

Contrary to his stage persona, Kanye is one of the nicest people you could hope to meet. He was raised right by his mother, and I know he is grieving. …

Robert Redford’s “Lions for Lambs” did worse at the box office than anyone thought. The Tom Cruise-produced polemic raked in only $6.7 million — far less than the $11 million forecast on boxofficemojo.com, for example.

It’s beating a dead lamb at this point to talk about Cruise’s career in a nosedive, the fate of United Artists and the Hitler movie. Suffice to say, this film will be out of theaters before you can say “gobble gobble."…

Another lion in the news, but not from that movie. The Broadway stagehands strike put the kibosh on 10th anniversary celebration of "The Lion King" scheduled for Sunday night. Julie Taymor and Disney had invited in everyone who ever worked on the show, but with no performance they had to settle for a much scaled-down party. Maybe when the strike is over they can try it again.

Neverland Nevermore: Jacko's PR Lies

Michael Jackson’s PR went on the offensive over the weekend, claiming falsely that Jackson was not in danger of losing his Neverland Valley Ranch. She said he was never in default on a $23 million loan secured by the property.

Well, here’s the fact: Jackson has until Jan. 19 to pay that loan with his money or someone else from whom he borrows the money. At the same time, he is also trying to refinance $300 million secured by his share of Sony/ATV Music Publishing. Sony is willing to help refinance through Barclay’s Bank, sources have told me, but they are not interested in the Neverland issue.

The $300 million loan came due on Oct. 31. Fortress Investment Trust holds both notes after buying them in 2005 and refinancing in 2006.

When the debt on Neverland is cured, it will be recorded at the Santa Barbara County assessor’s office. So far, the default notice remains in effect.

Meanwhile, F. Marc Schaffel, Jackson’s former business partner, is in second position on liens on both Neverland and “Hayvenhurst,” Jackson’s family home in Encino, Calif. The singer has a $4 million mortgage on that property.

The fact that Jackson is in this trouble comes as no surprise to old friends, family and now his rabid fans. All of them lay this fault at the feet of Raymone Bain, the PR consultant who worked on Jackson’s child molestation trial in 2005 until lead defense attorney Thomas Mesereau fired her from the case.

Recently, Jackson’s fans — who are loyal beyond reason — have been sending me faxes and e-mails with evidence of Bain sanitizing the singer’s Web fan pages of all criticism of her.

Bain has really struck a nerve with Jackson’s core fans, the ones who travel the world for him and stick by him in times of trouble. In a word, they despise her. Jackson is so isolated, they claim, that he has no idea the amount of enmity she’s caused.

Michael Jackson’s fans, like those of Madonna, Mariah Carey and other pop stars, are his bread and butter. Fans clubs, which sound like something out of the 1940s, are often what keep careers going long after mass popularity has subsided.

For Jackson, his loyal, zealous fans have always been a source of comfort. Perhaps he’s wondering now why he’s so cut off from them.

One fan from Denmark wrote an e-mail, since purged from a Jackson Web site, describing Bain’s reaction to fan interaction. The fan claimed that Bain responded to news of a big gift being sent to Jackson this way: “Michael is not interested in receiving any fan mail or fan gifts. Nor is he interested in any fan projects.”

The fan was shocked. She wrote: “Some of the fans no longer had interest in Michael because they were promised so many things from “Michael’s Team” and had been let down many times.”

Linda Stein: She's the Victim, Not the Villian

I was shocked by reports in our local press over the weekend that painted Linda Stein, who was brutally murdered, almost as someone who deserved what she got because she wasn’t polite to her assistant.

Huh?

According to police, Natavia Lowery allegedly hit Linda — who was barely 5 feet tall — over the head “six or seven” times with some kind of metal rod until she was bleeding profusely, lying on the ground, dead. Linda’s alleged crime? She was glib with the young woman, may have said something mildly offensive and blew marijuana smoke at her.

In the New York Times, the usually far more sensitive author Steven Gaines said the vicious boss depicted in “The Devil Wears Prada” was Snow White compared to Linda. He actually said of a women dead less than two weeks, whom he calls a friend: “I bet you Linda had been bickering, fighting and saying nasty things to this girl all along. Linda was very, very bad on her underlings. She was really, really bad.” He added: “Linda talked out of the side of her mouth and opened up a really big, loud, dirty mouth.”

So, OK, kill her. Bash her head in. Why not?

I have to think that Gaines regretted those quotes the moment he saw them in print. Linda Stein was our friend, a mother, a grandmother, an ex-wife, a cancer survivor. What this woman allegedly did to her is unspeakable, and for it, I want to be clear here, there is no excuse.

If she didn’t like her boss’ yelling, she should have left. That’s it, period. Linda Stein was the victim. Natavia Lowery, if she did it, is the villain. Let’s never forget that. Life imprisonment won't be enough for her. If she did it, I hope every day a guard comes by and blows smoke in her face.

Bon Jovi's 10th Commandment

Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, Tico Torres and David Bryan rocked the new Prudential Center in Newark on Saturday for the tenth time in two weeks and wrapped up a landmark series.

You ain’t seen nothin’ ‘til you’ve been among 15,000 Devils fans singing “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Sambora is back in shape after a tough year in the supermarket tabloids, not only singing lead on “These Days” with a bluesy R&B voice that should be heard more, but wailing away with some beautiful solos on guitar.

His new wardrobe of wild hats and long leather coats comes from new girlfriend, Jennifer, a stunning young blonde described by friends in the band as the best thing that ever happened to him.

And what of Jon Bon Jovi? He fills arenas with more women of different shapes and sizes than Elvis could have dreamt of. The guy works like a do, too, since the show requires him to do a tremendous amount of power singing, audience leading, cheerleading and emceeing.

Bon Jovi is up to the task, and he spends a lot of time in the audience winning even more fans. His enthusiasm is infectious. No one leaves a Bon Jovi show without a smile.

Best number of the night: “Keep the Faith,” a bluesy rocker on which Bon Jovi plays percussion and gets to show off some different vocal colors.

We also really loved the title track, “Lost Highway,” from the group’s latest album. And it wasn’t bad meeting former New York Yankee great Paul O'Neill after the show. Who knew he was such a Bon Jovi fan?

The Bon Jovi series was designed to give the new Prudential Center some visibility. If only Newark could get someone to run the place. The security team was overzealous, unhelpful and downright rude to the point of manhandling VIP guests. All the guests complained about the constant quizzing by security of where they were going and why.

Meantime, the person who identified himself by saying “This is my facility” was even less helpful. What a difference from the nice folks at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. If Prudential wants anyone to return, they should train their people a little better…