Apple faces questions from every corner: did it buy LaLa just to shut it down? Will the iPad overtake Mac sales?  Does Apple want to kill Flash?  One thing we know for sure: Apple’s title as the biggest music seller in the U.S. just gained even more breathing room.  Apple surpassed Walmart as the lead music retailer in 2008. Two years later, it has grown to the point that Apple's iTunes store sells more than Walmart and Best Buy combined. Newly released figures show that  iTunes store accounted for 26.7% of all music sales in the U.S. last year, that’s up 5 points from 2008.

1.  Apple (not ranked last week):  Apple’s iTunes now accounts for 26.7% of all music sales in the U.S. Will its success all go up in a Cloud?

2.  The Rolling Stones (not ranked): What year is it? Have these bad boys ever gotten as much positive press as they did this week for the expanded reissue of “Exile on Main St.’ in their 45-year history? Now if it were only for new music…

3.  Beyonce and Jay-Z (not ranked): Music’s reigning royal couple have another great week in their rarefied stratosphere: She performs before the Obamas at the state dinner for the Mexican president (“Oh yeah, her again,” says Michelle Obama) and lands four BET Award nominations. The only artist to receive more?  Hubby Jay-Z, who garners five nods.

4.   The National (not ranked; No. 9 two weeks ago):  Riding on the wave of astounding critical plaudits, the indie band lands its highest debut ever on the Billboard 200, entering the chart at No. 3. That would be 65 positions higher than the peak of its previous album, 2007’s “Boxer.”

5.  Greyson Chance (No. 9):  After capturing the world last week with his video performing Lady GaGa’s “Paparazzi” at a school assembly, 13-year old signs with Interscope Records and Madonna’s manager, Guy Oseary. Some raise the question of which came first: signing with the label or the internet viral video campaign? Either way, Chance had five of YouTube’s 10 most viewed videos this week. Word is that super producer/Geffen chairman Ron Fair will handle Chance's debut after Interscope chairman Jimmy Iovine personally oversaw the deal.

6.  RedOne (not ranked): Producer/writer is named BMI’s songwriter of the year at this year’s Pop Awards. Lady GaGa’s collaborator movingly speaks of his family’s support in his native Morocco for the more than 10 years he struggled while following his dreams. He can now afford to buy each one of them a new house or a shiny Cadillac.

7. Taylor Swift (not ranked): RedOne wasn’t the only winner at BMI. Swift takes home song of the year honors for “Love Story,” making her the youngest songwriter to snare the honor. She also charms the entire room of hardened industry-ites as she often leaps to her feet to applaud other songwriters and dance along to their tunes.  It’s called supporting your fellow artists, Kanye. Look into it.

8.  Elvis Costello (not ranked): Think musicians don’t have power in the political arena?   Costello cancels his two Israeli concerts citing its treatment of Palestinians and draws both support and ire, but regardless of your feelings about his decision, he gets people, who may have never given the issue much thought, talking.

9.  Sony Music Group (not ranked): The rumor mill goes into overdrive as to who will replace chairman/CEO Rolf Schmidt Holz if he doesn’t re-up when his contract ends at the end of the year.  Will it be Columbia/Epic chairman Rob Stringer or RCA/Jive group chairman/CEO Barry Weiss? We say bring back Clive Davis.

10.  Ronnie James Dio (not ranked): Former lead singer of Rainbow and Black Sabbath and current head of Heaven & Hell succumbs to stomach cancer and heavy metal loses one of its most brilliant vocalists.  RIP RJD.

11.  Bono (not ranked):  U2’s lead singer had emergency surgery after injuring his back will preparing for the summer leg of the band’s 360 tour.  The tour is on target, up until today that is, to be the highest grossing tour in concert industry history, surpassing the Rolling Stones’ last tour. U2’s first date, June 3’s Salt Lake City gig, is postponed with an update for other dates to come soon. U2’s crew of more than 400 is told to hang tight.  Bono slips and the world really does stop turning.

12.  Bjork (not ranked): Icelandic iconoclast wins Sweden’s prestigious Polar Music Prize, along with composer Ennio Morricone. Now if she could just do something about that volcano.

What do you think of this week's rankings?  Share your thoughts below.

Music Power Rankings appear every Friday on The Beat Goes On

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April 23