By Anna Chan and Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, NBCNews.com
Ramon Espinosa / AP
Beyonce and Jay-Z spent their fifth anniversary in Cuba.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury on Thursday confirmed that Beyonce and Jay-Z's controversial trip to Cuba last week was indeed sanctioned.
"It is our understanding that the travelers in question traveled to Cuba pursuant to an educational exchange trip organized by a group authorized by (the Office of Foreign Assets Control) to sponsor and organize programs to promote people-to-people contact in Cuba," Alastair M. Fitzpayne, the Treasury's assistant secretary for legislative affairs, wrote in a letter to Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart.
The letter also notes that "OFAC's regulations and guidelines require that such trips involve a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that result in meaningful interaction between the U.S. travelers and individuals of Cuba." Visitors are allowed to "engage in non-educational activities off-hours."
The Florida representatives had contacted the Treasury with concerns about the singers' trip, writing that the U.S. travel restrictions are in place to prevent American tourism dollars being spent to support a "murderous regime."
Americans can travel to Cuba if they first obtain a license for an academic, religious, journalistic or cultural exchange trip, but may not travel there simply for tourism.
The celebrity couple was pictured visiting the island on their fifth wedding anniversary. They toured historic Old Havana and dined at an elegant Havana restaurant, and Jay-Z was photographed smoking one of Cuba's famed cigars. The stars' presence created such a stir that police were called in.
Kanye West has never been one to bite his tongue, but diss Jay-Z ... that's a different story. Putting the duo's 2011-2012 "Watch the Throne" tour to the side, the loquacious rapper hit the stage during his show in London Saturday and sounded off about Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake's "Suit & Tie."
"I hate business people," West rapped, according to Billboard. "People get on the phone with me and tell me, 'What kind of business can you do, though? What type of business are you doing? What's the numbers? How much did you sell? What's the radio spins? How much shampoo can you sell with your face on it and sh--. Remind me again why we in this sh---. Can you remind me again why we in this sh--? Since when (is) making music about getting rich? Since when was making art about getting rich? ... Remind me again why we in this sh--."
Oh, yes, there was even more during the 10-minute rapped speech.
"Can I sell a drink for you, please?" West continued. "So you can help me put on a better show. Please corporations. Can you please support me? I swear I'm a nice n---- now. I swear I'll put the pink polo back on. I swear to you. Please. Just for three million dollars. I need it so bad. I need a new pool in my backyard. I tell my fans your sh-- is cool. And if they believe in me they should also believe in you. What's my public rating now? Are they liking me again? They forgot about the whole Beyonce thing right? Okay, cool."
Last week, Jay-Z and Timberlake officially announced that they will embark on a tour together, performing in 12 cities this summer.
Something tells us West won't be making an appearance.
The Superdome audience went wild for Beyonce's halftime performance, which included a reunion with her 1990s R&B group, Destiny's Child. But not everyone felt that the show, which included Beyonce in a low-cut leather outfit and some sexual innuendo, was family-friendly enough for the biggest football game of the year.
Ezra Shaw / Getty Images
Beyonce's sexy performance at the Super Bowl was criticized by some who feel the game should offer family entertainment.
"You can have clothes on, and still perform well!" wrote Mary-Jane Schips.
Reader Amber Dawn Burton defended the costumes, writing, "Fierce, energetic, tight choreography. Great to see Destiny's Child on stage again together. As for the negative comment about the costumes: ironic given the cheerleading costumes in the NFL are pretty much the same level of coverage. Women who fall into the patriarchal "family show" BS sadden me. You feed the machine."
Designer Rubin Singer, who spent months working on Beyonce's outfit for the show, told CNN the original costume was actually tamer than he first intended.
"The costume was originally much more risqué and exposed, but as we got closer we decided to bring it down," Singer told CNN.
She pretty much owned the Super Bowl, and now she's prepping to take over the world ... on tour, that is. Just hours after an electrifying halftime show, Beyonce announced a world tour with a name clearly inspired by loving hubby Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter.
Her Fierceness will launch the "Mrs. Carter Show" tour in Eastern Europe, including dates in Serbia and Slovakia, before burning up Europe and then North America.
She brought the house down -- and some joked, took out the power. Superstar Beyonce's Super Bowl halftime show dazzled the crowd even before the singer reunited onstage with her hit 1990s R&B group, Destiny's Child.
Christopher Polk / Getty Images
Beyonce performs at the Super Bowl halftime show.
The Superdome crowd started roaring from the moment Beyonce appeared, clad in black leather and heels and soon flanked by an army of dress-alike dancers.
She lit up the arena, performing a medley of her solo hits (including "Love on Top" and "Baby Boy") and completely erasing any of the pre-game fuss about lip-synching. And then, as rumored, her fellow Destiny's Child members Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland seemingly levitated up from underground and appeared on the stage with the band's most famous former member.
Gerald Herbert / AP
Beyonce performs with Kelly Rowland, left, and Michelle Williams, right, of Destiny's Child, during the Super Bowl halftime show.
"Give it up for Destiny's Child, y'all!" Beyonce called to the screaming audience as Williams and Rowland appeared.
Rowland, Williams and Beyonce performed "Bootylicious" and "Independent Women," which were huge Destiny's Child hits, and then Williams and Rowland joined Beyonce for her crowd-pleasing solo hit, "Single Ladies."
Destiny's Child, founded in 1990, sold more than 500 million records. The group broke up in 2006, with all members pursuing solo careers, Beyonce becoming the most successful.
Shortly after the game resumed after the halftime show, part of the lights went out at the Superdome, leading to plenty of online jokes that it was Beyonce's powerful performance that caused the problem.
In case you were wondering whether Beyonce can sing the national anthem, the answer is a defiant yes.
The singer took the stage at a Super Bowl news conference on Thursday in New Orleans and asked those in attendance to please rise. With a giant flag waving on a video screen behind her, Beyonce launched into an impassioned a capella version of "The Star Spangled Banner." When she finished, she asked simply, "Any questions?"
Mike Lawrie / Getty Images
Beyonce sings the national anthem before she addresses the media during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show press conference in New Orleans on Thursday.
It was a dramatic end to 10 days of silence from the Grammy winner over whether she lip-synched the song at President Barack Obama's second presidential inauguration.
With the matter of whether she can sing the anthem settled, there was still one lingering question: Just what happened on the Capitol steps in Washington?
"I did not have time to rehearse, it was a live television show, it was very important and emotional for me, one of my proudest moments," Beyonce said. "Due to weather, due to delay, due to no proper sound check, I did not feel comfortable risking it.
"This was about the president and I wanted to make him and my country proud. I sang along with my prerecorded track -- very common in the music industry. I'm very proud of my performance."
Beyonce said she will, however, "absolutely be singing live" during Sunday's halftime show. "This is what I was born to do."
She also clarified the difference between the pressure of singing at the inauguration and singing this weekend.
"This weekend I'm performing at the halftime show and I feel like before (at the inauguration) the event was not about me. I'm excited to have done both but now I'm on to the halftime show. I always sing live. The inauguration was unfortunately a time I could not rehearse -- it was always the plan (to sing to backing track)."
Beyonce covered more ground than just the lip-synch scandal. Would the halftime show feature a Destiny's Child reunion? She didn't confirm, but definitely stopped short of an outright denial.
And what about touring again? "Soon," she said. "And I may have an announcement after the performance and the fans should stay tuned to see."
Regardless of the scandal that has up until this point overshadowed her Super Bowl plans, Beyonce made one thing clear: her performance Sunday will be a very meaningful one. Being a part of the halftime show "has been an aspiration for me," she said. "You work very hard for these moments and I'm just hoping that all of my life lessons and experience I can feel and use during this performance."
Also at Thursday's news conference, the NFL announced that Jennifer Hudson and Sandy Hook Elementary School chorus from Newtown, Conn., would sing "America the Beautiful" before Sunday's game. And Alicia Keys is slated to sing the national anthem.
Sure, the Super Bowl on Sunday will technically pit two of football's greatest in a head-to-head blowout. But for a lot of fans, it's not about the San Francisco 49ers or the Baltimore Ravens -- because we're all on the same team: Team Beyonce!
Thankfully, the singer -- who will headline the halftime event with what promises to be an all-out funky extravaganza -- understands her team's needs: She's now posted a tease that offers a brief glimpse into her planned halftime shenanigans.
Set to her hit song "Countdown," the video looks into the dance-filled rehearsal between Beyonce and her dancers, and is way too brief. But its YouTube title, "Beyonce Super Bowl Halftime Show Rehearsal: Day 1" implies there may be a Day 2, Day 3 ... and so on. So cross fingers that this is not the only insight into the hitmaker's practice sessions.
Still, it doesn't address one of the big questions likely to be on viewers' minds: Will she sing it live, or will she use backing tracks -- as was rumored happened during her performance at President Barack Obama's second inauguration? Anything is possible.
The space between halves of the Super Bowl has far outgrown what was once a time slot allotted for food runs and bathroom breaks. The critical eye dedicated to the action on the field is also focused on the musical act that scores the coveted halftime spot.
It might be the highest-profile gig out there, but it's also the most fraught with hazards and it doesn't take much to make the 30-minute act memorable. In recent years performers got more attention for what went wrong rather than right -- Janet Jackson and her infamous "wardrobe malfunction" in 2004; M.I.A.’s middle finger to the camera last year.
So why would anyone take the job? Well, the giant global audience that makes the Super Bowl the most watched event on television every year is the blessing and the curse for an artist looking to gain massive exposure -- or prove continued relevance.
The pressure falls squarely on Beyonce this year, and is heightened after her did-she-or-didn’t-she national anthem at the Presidential Inauguration. More people will be watching that much more closely -- is it live or is it taped?
So how can she succeed? Here are some lessons based on what’s worked over the past decade -- and what hasn’t.
Be young and hip Well, OK, she’s already got that going for her. Because of that, she’s already starting way ahead of acts like The Who, which was a big-name get that would have been more appropriate for one of the first Super Bowls than it was in 2010.
Pick your songs carefully Don’t be like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were in 2008. Of all the songs they’ve recorded over the years, whose bright idea was it to go with “Free Fallin’” as part of the halftime show? Patriots fans really needed to be reminded that their undefeated season was free-falling out into nothing?
More to the point: The Super Bowl is one giant party. The music should be fun and festive and get people pumped up for the second half. This isn’t time for a power ballad.
And know your audience. Shania Twain and No Doubt put on a fine show in 2003. But perhaps “Man! I Feel like a Woman” and “Just a Girl” weren’t the best calls given the mostly male audience at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
Live in the moment The 2002 Super Bowl was arguably the best halftime show of recent vintage, because it fit so perfectly into the country’s mood at the time. U2 headlined what was a tribute to the victims of 9/11, and “Beautiful Day” captured the moment perfectly -- looking back in sorrow and anger at the attack, but optimistic about what was to come.
It would be hard to match that effort this year, but hey, that’s why there are so many people involved in planning the show. Surely someone in the group has a good idea.
Don’t be a trainwreck It’s like the Hippocratic Oath for halftime show acts: Do no harm.
Getting Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson to headline the halftime show in 2004 was a coup, and it was an excellent performance ... right up until that darned wardrobe malfunction. And yet, what does everyone remember? The incident that got the FCC involved and kept everyone at the network up at night for months -- and, not incidentally, didn't do much for Jackson's career.
Even if most folks aren't giving their full attention to the screen, they'll start to focus if the announcers point out something like an obscene gesture or a bad attitude. Plus it will get repeated for days on the news, right after the best and worst commercials. This isn't the time to get creative with expressing yourself.
Sing live It’s not like that’s not going to be the first question anyone asks anyway, at least this year.
And besides, what’s the worst that can happen? Even if Beyonce drops a lyric or isn’t at her best, everyone will have forgotten about it as soon as the second half kicks off. That’s the beauty of being the Super Bowl halftime act.
Beyonce might be the person who's taking the most heat for lip-synching at this precise moment in time, but she's far from the first performer who has relied on a backing track of some sort. While she stands a good chance at recovering from her national anthem trickery, some earlier musical offenders weren't so lucky.
Milli Vanilli was famously stripped of the best new artist Grammy in 1990 after it was discovered that they -- Robert Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan -- didn't actually provide the vocals used on their "Girl You Know It's True" album. Below is one of their hit songs from the album, "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You," which hit the top of the charts when it was released in 1989.
There's the behind-the-scenes lip-synch, and then there's the live, right-before-your eyes reveal. Despite the fact that the original clip has pretty much been scrubbed from the Internet, Ashlee Simpson will long be remembered for her "Pieces of Me" fail on "Saturday Night Live" in 2004. The music started, but her mouth didn't really move, and Simpson did a little jig to deflect the awfulness of the situation. (Catch some of it around the 3:50 mark of this video.)
In October 2012, Justin Bieber made headlines for throwing up on stage -- hey, stars get the flu, too! -- but the other takeaway was that while the singer was losing his lunch, he managed to keep on "singing."
At the 2007 BET awards, 50 Cent skipped the entire first verse for "Amusement Park" and wandered the audience until catching up with the song. Did he forget the words? Later he said, "I just wasn't concentrating."
These examples just scratch the surface; where proof exists of one artist lip-synching, there are scores of allegations that others are doing it, too. Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Madonna, the list goes on.
Are you bothered by lip-synching or is it enough to see a performer live on stage, whether he or she is actually singing or not? Weigh in on Facebook.
Updated, Wednesday, 2:00 p.m. ET: It's true what you're hearing about what you heard not being "true." Beyonce's spectacular inaugural performance of the national anthem was indeed lip-synched.
Master Sgt. Kristin DuBois, public affairs chief for the United States Marine Band, confirms to TODAY.com that "it was her (Beyonce's) decision to use pre-recorded music." That pre-recorded music did include vocals, DuBois clarified.
To be fair, all music used in the inaugural events is pre-recorded in case there is any reason -- such as extreme cold or other inclement weather conditions -- that would warrant using a track over a live performance.
"The Marine Band did perform live for the ceremony, parade, and even the prayer service today," DuBois said Tuesday. "At the very last minute, just before she went out, we received the instructions," DuBois said of Beyonce's decision not to sing live.
On Tuesday evening, the Marine Corp. backed off from DuBois' assertion that Beyonce used pre-recorded music that included vocals. "No one in the Marine Band is in a position to assess whether it was live or pre-recorded," Capt. Gregory A. Wolf said in a statement. "There was no opportunity for Ms. Knowles-Carter to rehearse with the Marine Band before the Inauguration so it was determined that a live performance by the band was ill-advised for such a high-profile event. Each piece of music scheduled for performance in the Inauguration is pre-recorded for use in case of freezing temperatures, equipment failure, or extenuating circumstances," the statement also said.
Reps for the singer have still not responded to requests for comment. Reps for Kelly Clarkson, who sang "My Country Tis of Thee" confirmed Tuesday that Clarkson "did sing live" at the inauguration. James Taylor's management confirms that he "did indeed sing and play live" when her performed "America the Beautiful."
Beyonce is not the first person to rely on a backing track at the inauguration. DuBois recalled that in 2008 when Yo-Yo Ma played as part of a quartet at the inauguration, he too opted for the track. "You can't play cellos in 25 degrees," DuBois said. "Sometimes you just need to do it. Beyonce is a gifted singer and her decision has no bearing on her musical ability."
Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor are used to performing before thousands, but their audience Monday, on the most national of stages, far exceeded that. The three singers each performed songs that were part of President Barack Obama's second inauguration, and each one of them brought their best for the ceremony.
First up was Taylor, who followed the swearing in of Vice President Joe Biden. As the only musician who was playing his own accompaniment, Taylor was spotted blowing warm air on his hands before strapping on his acoustic guitar for a short, sweet arrangement of "America the Beautiful."
Clarkson was the second singer to perform. She followed the president's inaugural address. You'd think that would be a tough act to follow, but after Clarkson sang "My Country Tis of Thee," even Sen. Charles Schumer (who was leading the cermonies) was moved. He summed it up perfectly and said into the microphone so everyone on the mall could hear, "Wow."
Singer Kelly Clarkson performs "My Country Tis of Thee."
The final vocal performance came from Beyonce. Taking the stage after the benediction from Rev. Luis Leon, Beyonce did her Beyonce thing, belting out a rendition of the national anthem that all future national anthems might just be measured against.
Back in the day ... Destiny's Child, from left, Kelly Rowland, Beyonce and Michelle Williams, at the 28th Annual American Music Awards on Jan. 8, 2001.
By Courtney Hazlett, NBC News
Destiny's Child fans have a new reason to say their name: the group, comprised of Beyonce, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, is reuniting for the first time since splitting up in 2005. "We are so proud to announce the first original Destiny's Child music in eight years!" the group announced on their Facebook page Thursday.
On Jan. 29, they'll release "Love Songs," a collection comprised "mainly of romantic gems recorded between 1997 and 2004," according to their website. On the album will also be a brand new track, "Nuclear," the first new recording since 2004. Give it a listen below.
Now that there's music on the horizon, the next logical question is WHEN WILL THEY PERFORM. There's no official word yet, but the rumor du jour is that Beyonce's Super Bowl performance might be a great opportunity. According to Rolling Stone, Beyonce will open the show, then she'll be joined by Williams and Rowland to singe a Destiny's Child medley and their new song, then Beyonce would close the show. Naturally, no one within the Destiny's Child camp has any comment on this. Stay tuned.