<p>Neon Trees</p>

Neon Trees

Watch: Neon Trees' new video takes you back to '1983'

Bring your red leather jacket

In a Top 40 radio climate totally dominated by solo R&B-influenced males and solo females, alternative rock band Neon Trees has done the near impossible and scored a Top 20  hit with the catchy “Animal”  (In part, no doubt, due to its placement in a television commercial for Las Vegas). They are the only rock band in the Top 20.

We'll see if they can make it two in a row with their new single, "1983," the video for which premiered today. “1983”  sounds strikingly similar to “Animal” with its big chorus. The video opens like the scene in “Big,” where Tom Hanks’ character visits a fortune-telling machine. In this case, lead singer Tyler Glenn wants to go back to, you guessed it, 1983. He gets transporting to a carnival. He even gets to  wear a red, Michael Jackson leather jacket.  There’s really not much more to it than that. Bright lights, small city. Try not to be distracted by the obvious product placement by soft drink Crush.  Nothing subtle about that one.

“1983” debuts on Billboard’s alternative chart this week at No. 37. There’s a performance clip of the song that was making the rounds this Spring (you can see it here), but the official video arrived today--- 27 years behind schedule.

 

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<p>Weezer</p>

Weezer

What do Weezer, Elvis and Kermit the Frog all have in common?

They all recorded songs by some of the world's best songwriters

The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards once told me that the key to songwriting is “keeping your antenna up.” It’s a concept that almost every songwriter I’ve ever interviewed has repeated in some fashion.  They may be the ones with the songwriter credit, but  they are really just a conduit for something flowing through them.  Or, as Paul Williams put it Tuesday night at the Songwriters Hall of Fame (SHOF) evening at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, “There’s something in the song that didn’t come from us.”

That, however, does not mean that there aren’t often wonderfully amusing stories accompanied by the creation of the music. The Oscar-winning Williams was joined by some of the best songwriters to ever take pen to paper, as they told tales about how their most famous songs came about. The event heralded the opening of SHOF’s permanent exhibit at the museum.

The most amusing story came from the legendary Lamont Dozier, who, as part of the songwriter trio of Holland-Dozier-Holland, has written more than 50 No. 1s, most of them for Motown artists like Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross and the Supremes.

“I call this my infidelity song,” the good-natured Dozier told the crowd of his classic, “Stop in the Name of Love.”  “It was  six or seven in the morning. I’d had a couple. I was in a no-tell motel and I heard a knock on the door. My ‘friend’ went out the bathroom window because the woman I was with at the time was known to be a bit of a terror.” Dozier’s girlfriend came in the room and started chewing him out.  “I said, ‘Baby, please. Stop in the name of love!’ She said, ‘That’s not funny.’ I said,’ Wait. Did you hear that cash register?’” He went on to write the song that became a massive hit for the Supremes.

Dozier also told a remarkable story about Marvin Gaye recording “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You). Gaye showed up at the studio with his golf clubs, unhappy to be kept off the links. He groused that he didn’t know why he was there and that he hadn’t received a copy of the song to learn it beforehand. After he heard it, “he was immediately perturbed. He was pissed because the key was too high,” Dozier says, adding with a wink, “We did that on purpose because we knew if he reached for it, he would shine.  He did the song in one take and he just heard it for the first time that day. He was a genius.”

Mac Davis talked about writing songs recorded by  Elvis Presley, including “In the Ghetto,” “A Little Less Conversation” (which he originally wrote for Aretha Franklin) and “Memories.”

Davis first met Presley at a looping session for “A Little Less Conversation,” which appeared in “one of [Elvis’s] worst movies. That narrows it down to 50,” he joked. (The song appeared in 1968’s “Live a Little, Love a Little.”)  Col Tom Parker approached Davis and said, as Davis recalled, “‘You’re a good-looking boy. Let me rub your head.’” A slightly weirded out Davis complied, and Parker said to him, “You go tell everybody  you met Col. Parker and you’re going to be a star.”  He was right.

Despite protestations from his camp,  Presley insisted on recording “In the Ghetto.”  “He fought to record that song,” Davis says. “He was used to listening to Col. Parker. He was no longer No. 1, the Beatles were.  Priscilla’s told this story. They didn’t want him to cut it. They thought it was too political. It was a white guy singing about the ghetto.” “In the Ghetto” didn’t go to No. 1, but it showcased Presley in  totally new light.

Davis most recently wrote with Weezer. “Rivers Cuomo called and asked if I’d write a song with him,” Davis said. “I now have street cred with my kids.”  The clever tune, “Times Flies,” is on Weezer’s new album, “Hurley.”

Nick Ashford, who was joined by his wife and songwriting partner Valerie Simpson, talked about how nervewracking playing a song for Motown founder/chief Berry Gordy could be.  “There was a Motown quality control board,” he said. “It would be Berry and his disciples. Berry looks like Jesus.” Ashford had been summoned to play a song, but was quaking in his boots when the board sent a song by Norman Whitfield, author of such classics as “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” and “Just My Imagination,” got sent back to the songwriter for more work. Ashford played “You’re All I Need To Get By” and held his breath. “Berry Gordy said, ‘We’re not going to vote on this song. We’re just sending it out.”  The song, recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, became one of the biggest R&B hits of 1968 and was the biggest duet of Gaye’s career.

In a few other tidbits, Hal David, who, with partner Burt Bacharach,  wrote everything from “This Guy’s in Love With You” to “Alfie” and “Close To You,” revealed that “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” was turned down repeatedly before BJ Thomas recorded it for “Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid.” The song went on to win an Oscar.  (David did not say who passed on the song, but according to lore, both Ray Stevens and Bob Dylan declined to record it for the movie).

Williams said that “We’ve Only Just Begun,” a hit for the Carpenters, was originally written as a bank commercial. As much as he loved working with a number of artists, Williams holds a special place in his heart for a piece of felt that turned into his favorite partner: Kermit the Frog, for whom he wrote “The Rainbow Connection.”  Jim Henson gave me the most freedom I’ve ever been given,” he says of his work on “The Muppet Movie.”  “‘The Rainbow Connection’ is my favorite song I’ve ever written.”

In addition to the celebrated songwriters on the stage, there were many in the audience, including Jimmy Webb, who is responsible for my favorite line ever written:  “I need you more than want you/And I want you for all time,” from “Wichita Lineman.”

What do you think is the best song ever written?
 

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<p>Taylor Swift's &quot;Mean&quot;</p>

Taylor Swift's "Mean"

Listen: Taylor Swift takes on all bullies with 'Mean'

Living well is the best revenge

Taylor Swift has now convinced me she has some kind of supernatural ability. Her new song, “Mean,” the latest iTunes exclusive released before her new album, “Speak Now” comes out Oct. 25, is the perfect response to the recent spate of teen suicides--even though it had to have been written and recorded way beforehand. It’s also the most country of the five songs we’ve heard from the album. Hear it here.

With a jaunty banjo background (this is as bluegrass as we’ve ever heard Swift), she questions why a bully keeps picking on her, but she has unwavering faith that she will triumph, despite the pain.  “You can take me down with just one single blow/what you don’t know/someday I’ll be living in a big old city and all you’re ever gonna be is mean... I walk with my head down trying to block you out cos I’ll never impress you/I just want to feel okay again.”

Swift’s appeal is primarily young girls, but this song will appeal to anyone, no matter his or her age, who was ever bullied and who has realized, long before it became a catch phrase, that, it does, indeed, get better. But it’s also a reminder that words hurt and words sting and unkind words live on long after the bully has moved on to his or her next victim.

At the end, Swift takes the message from the macro to the micro. As she’s said, every song on “Speak Now” is about some incident in her life, so we pity the fool that this one is about as she sings, “Washed up and ranting about the same old bits or things/drunk and going on about how I can’t sing/but all you are is mean...all you are is mean and a liar and pathetic and alone in life and mean.”

Since the start of her major label career four years ago, Swift has proved an exemplary role model and a strong songwriter because she is able to tap into her emotions in an authentic way. She’s reached a new high watermark with “Mean.”

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<p>&quot;Whip My Hair&quot;</p>

"Whip My Hair"

Watch: Willow Smith whips it good in 'Whip My Hair'

Is Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith's daughter the next Rihanna?

Willow Smith, daughter of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, may only be 9 years old, but she had the punky attitude of a full-blown teen. As Miley Cyrus gets ready to become an adult, we can fill that spot with Willow.

On the video for her horribly monotonous, seizure-inducing  “Whip My Hair” she sports diamonds on her upper lip (quick: buy stock in Claire’s Accessories right now) in what is sure to become the next trend for pint-sized party girls. She also brings a veritable rainbow of color to her classroom via her very talented ability to, yes, dip her hair in paint and then whip it. She inspires everyone, from her school teacher to the lunch room lady to a toddler to explode in a frenzy of dance. Don't risk this at home or risk whiplash at your own peril.

Willow is a mini-Rihanna with attitude to spare in this totally age-appropriate video. Her singing voice is competent and she has great charisma. Girls her age are going to eat this up. It’s not meant for the rest of us. You’ll want to watch it once to make sure you feel it’s appropriate for your kid, but after that, anyone over 10 hopefully doesn’t have to watch it again.

We’re relieved to see that she’s not a very proficient lipsyncer.  She shouldn’t be perfect at 9 at anything.

The song could really stand to be chopped in half. There’s a great ending point right around 2:45. By then, you’ve gotten the theme. Actually you have that within 10 seconds, but the next 90 seconds are fairly excruciating, if not downright tortuous as Willow repeats about 100 times “I whip my hair back and forth” and the non-existent story line just repeats itself over and over.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Ingrid Michaelson</p>

Ingrid Michaelson

Credit: Mom + Pop

Watch: Ingrid Michaelson's new video for 'Parachute'

Is her version better than Cheryl Cole's?

Want to see Ingrid Michaelson like you’re never seen her? Check out her new video here for “Parachute,” a song she co-penned and  former Girls Aloud member Cheryl Cole had a huge hit with in the U.K. Now she’s recorded her own version as a stand-alone track.

Michaelson glams it up in a way we haven’t seen before, complete with Princess Leia braids and fake eyelashes out to there.  The video, directed by Adria Petty (yes, Tom’s daughter) follows Michaelson, who rockets into space to a planet that looks like a big orange.

Our main complaint? The outer space footage is way too dark. If she has the ability  to rocket into space, couldn’t she at least take a flashlight?   Somehow she ends up in the belly of the planet, wrapped up in the deep roots of the one plant growing on a planet.  The plant thrives, as we hope the relationship does. It’s one of those videos that has nothing to do with the song, but it’s fun to try to decipher what the heck is going on. Kind of like Goldfrapp’s “Rocket...” except, oh yeah, Allison Goldfrapp is on a rocket on that one. But as Michaelson sings here, she doesn’t need a parachute.

Michaelson’s version of the song is spunkier and more fun than Cole’s, plus she has a better voice than Cole. Cole’s big advantage in the video is she has “Dancing with the Stars’” Derek Hough in her video (the two were romantically linked at the time).

Below is Cole’s video and we’ll embed Michaelson’s as soon as Entertainment Weekly lets us. Which one do you like better? 







 

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<p>Elton John and Leon Russell's &quot;The Union&quot;</p>

Elton John and Leon Russell's "The Union"

Album Review: Elton John & Leon Russell's 'The Union'

Do the two piano legends create a new masterpiece?

It’s no coincidence that the first voice we hear on Elton John and Leon Russell’s new album, “The Union,” is that of Russell. The album is a complete labor of love by John as a thank you to one of his musical heroes. We’re so glad he didn’t decide to just send a fruit basket.

As John tells it, he and his husband, David Furnish, were on safari and Furnish began playing some of Russell’s music. Memories came flooding back for John, who opened for Russell in 1970 and had always been a big fan. He reconnected with Russell, who had faded into near obscurity, and suggested they work together.

If you don’t know who Leon Russell is, you’re John’s target audience here. Russell is an Oklahoma singer/songwriter, who, in addition to his solo work, has collaborated with Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker, George Harrison, Delaney & Bonnie, Eric Clapton, John Lennon,  Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones and just about everyone else you can think of. He also wrote “Superstar,” which was a big hit for many artists including The Carpenters and Luther Vandross, and his only major pop hit as an artist, 1972’s “Tightrope.” His piano playing is inspired and his voice unique--think Willie Nelson with a bit more of a nasal twist.

With “The Union,” John wanted to create an album that reminded people of Russell’s prodigious talent and introduced Russell to a new audience.  John has been unabashed in stating that he hopes the project will “improve” Russell’s life.

None of that would amount to anything other than a lovely sentiment if the collaboration didn’t work. But it does...and how.  Throw in producer T Bone Burnett, whom John handpicked based on Burnett’s work on Robert Plant/Alison Krauss’s  “Raising Sand,” and the trio has created a testament to talent that doesn’t fade even if the spotlight has shifted elsewhere.

Written by John, his longtime partner Bernie Taupin, Russell and Burnett in different combinations with each other, the songs--many mournful, some rollicking--all highlight John’s and Russell’s ability to boogie woogie on the keyboards. Under Burnett’s steady hand, the production is kept minimalist with no unnecessary embellishments.  Russell and John’s piano playing and vocals (surrounded with stellar musicians) are all the bells and whistles you need.  In fact, we would have pared it back even further, stripping away the female backing vocals on all but “There’s No Tomorrow,” a dirge-like, striking tune built around “Hymn No. 5” by the Mighty Hannibal.

The album succeeds best when Russell and John play off each other, such as on “Hey Ahab.”  John sings lead, but in the distance, Russell vamps backing vocals that give the song extra heft and depth, or on the set’s crowning glory, “Gone to Shiloh,” a somber ballad about the bloody Civil War battle.  Neil Young joins the twosome for lead on a verse and the sound of the three distinctive voices wrapped around each other on the chorus is a singular delight.  The boisterous "Monkey Suit" is 100% fun.

As if a pupil showing off for his teacher, John is at the top of his vocal form here. He sounds reinvigorated and enthusiastic. Many of the songs, such as the chugging “Jimmie Rodgers’ Dream,” which references the  Singing Brakeman, would have easily fit in on John’s ‘70s classic “Tumbleweed Connection.”

There’s something intoxicatingly refreshing about an album that is made simply for the joy of making music with an old friend. The good news is that we’re all invited to the reunion.

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<p>Sugarland</p>

Sugarland

Review: Is Sugarland’s 'The Incredible Machine' built to last?

Duo's fourth album aims high: Does it succeed?

Sugarland was never a country band by any traditional measuring stick, but let’s get this out of the way from the start:  “The Incredible Machine” is the least country album likely to come out this year under the “country” moniker. Unless Lady Gaga decides to spring a country album on us in the next few weeks (BTW, we don’t consider Taylor Swift a country act anymore). 

The immensely popular Sugarland knows and respects the fact  that music fans today--and especially younger ones--- listen to songs they like. They don’t care what arbitrary genre some radio programmer has slotted them into. However, by Sugarland’s flinging its net so wide, there are times that “The Incredible Machine” sounds like, as Jennifer Nettles sings in “Little Miss,” “one big mess.” 

From the opening notes of “All We Are,” with  Nettles’ dramatic, slowly delivered vocals accompanied by organ and building guitars,  “The Incredible Machine” screams “LISTEN TO ME.”  The duo’s fourth studio album doesn’t so much embrace the listener (more about that later) as grab him by the throat and not let go in an effort to spread its primary message that help is on the way....and you'll be able to fist pump your way to recovery.

Anthems dominate “The Incredible Machine.” Even slower songs like “Tonight,” which features Nettles in a thickly nuanced vocal performance unlike you’ve heard her before, feature big echo-y kick drums. Sugarland co-produced the album with Byron Gallimore--best known for his work with Tim McGraw-- but the team definitely took its inspiration from Steve Lillywhite’s drum-heavy production with U2.

Speaking of U2, anyone who has seen Sugarland on “The Incredible Machine” tour knows the pair is aiming for the Irish rockers' grandiose impact and power with its live show.  Forget the big feel of arena rock; Sugarland is going straight for the majesty of stadium rock. Every song is meant to reach the rafters. In concert, on “Stand Up,” Nettles brings out a white flag, spray paints a message about love on it, and carries it throughout the venue. And, depending upon whether you find such antics inspiring or preachy, it works. “Stand Up” is the moral centerpiece of “The Incredible Machine”--both the album and the tour. The song feels important in a slightly self-conscious way, but its message of rising up for good is one that will hopefully reach some ears.

“There’s a comfort/there’s a healing high above the pain and sorrow. Change is coming/can you feel it/ calling us into a new tomorrow,” Kristian Bush sings in his raspy tenor in a brief interlude on “Stand Up.”  Although the song was recorded before the recent spate of gay teens committing  suicide (or at least the media shining a light on the issue), it serves as the perfect anthem for any kid struggling, especially with its “Won’t you stand up,  you girls and boys” refrain. It is one of those songs that arrived at the right time and will, hopefully, find a higher purpose.

To Sugarland’s credit, it never pulls a punch on “The Incredible Machine.”  Nettles and Bush are fearlessly confident in their ambition. With very few exceptions, the pair reaches for the hammer every time, even if a much lighter touch might serve them better. Additionally, Nettles has one of those remarkable voices that loses none of its potency the more she belts. Vocal issues have plagued her in the past on tour, but there’s nothing here to suggest that she isn’t back to full throttle.

First single, the spiky “Stuck Like Glue” has found an audience at country radio despite the rap/dub Nettles delivers in the middle.  She raps again on “Every Girl Like Me.”  (something about a “hootie hanging down?”). The maneuver feels novelty on “Stuck Like Glue” and it does here as well.   She’s having fun and that’s infectious for the first few listens, but on repeated plays, you may find yourself  skipping both songs.

After two forgettable tracks,  “Find the Beat Again” and “Wide Open,” the album closes with another stunner, the elegant “Shine the Light.”  Accompanied primarily only by piano, Nettles delivers a benediction of sorts to a friend in need that she will stick close through troubled times. It’s a lovely finale, but it’s a shame that it takes until the ending tune to stop the bombast.


 

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<p>Kings of Leon</p>

Kings of Leon

Credit: Jack Plunkett/AP

Kings of Leon, Sugarland, Miley and Elton John dominate Oct. 19 release slate

Shakira, Phish's Mike Gordon, Rod Stewart and Liz Phair also represent

Kings of Leon returns with new music, “Come Around Sundown,” in a week chock-full of big names.  They’re joined by sets from Sugarland, as well as Elton John and his hero Leon Russell. Rod Stewart revisits the Great American songbook for the fifth time, Shakira shakes her hips again and Liz Phair releases her first set in five years.

Miley Cyrus, “Hannah Montana Forever” (Walt Disney): It’s just a title Miley. Seriously, as Cyrus gets ready to leave her alter-ego behind forever, she takes one more spin around the TV set with this soundtrack that includes collaborations with Iyaz, Sheryl Crow and dad Billy Ray Cyrus and covers all four seasons of the hit show. (Doesn’t it feel like it’s been on for at least a dozen years?)

Mike Gordon, “Moss” (Rounder): Phish bassist releases third solo set, although his Phish-mates are never far away: both Page McConnell and Jon Fishman make appearances.

Elton John/Leon Russell, “The Union” (Decca): John pairs with one of his early idols, Leon Russell, for this stripped-down T Bone Burnett-produced collection of largely acoustic tunes penned by John, Russell and John’s longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin. Read review here.

Kings of Leon, “Come Around Sundown” (RCA): The Followill brothers follow up the ultra-successful “Only By the Night” with a set recorded in New York and that drummer Nathan Followill told Hitfix included some tracks that could be considered “beachy.” Read the review here.

Liz Phair, “Funstyle” (Rocket Science): Released digital this summer, “Funstyle” sees its physical release come to light; her first album in five years. The two-CD set features her rapping as well as returning to her singer/songwriter stripped down roots.

Shakira, “Sale el Sol” (Sony Music Latin): Shakira and her hips shake to Latin rhythms in this primarily Spanish set, the follow-up to the largely electronic, dance-oriented “She Wolf.” The album captures both the glories and sorrows of love with the help of Pitbull and Rene Perez Joglar from Calle 13. Check out her cover of The xx’s “Islands.”

Rod Stewart, “Fly Me to the Moon: The Great American Songbook, Vol. V” (J): After a five-year hiatus, Rod the Mod tackles another set of classic American tunes, including “Moon River,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Beyond the Sea,” and the title track.

Sugarland, “the Incredible Machine” (Mercury Nashville): Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush’s fourth studio album is a high-volume affair full of arena rock-sized anthems and quirky twists and turns. Nettles’ voice is capable of tackling all, but some restraint may have been a nice addition. Read review here.

Third Day, “Move” (Essential): Leading Christian rock group follows up 2208’s “Revelation” with this slab of southern-flavored rock, including the anthemic “Lift Up Your Face.”

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<p>Taylor Swift</p>

Taylor Swift

Credit: Chris Pizzello/AP

Music Power Rankings: Taylor Swift Speaks Now and Loudly

Eminem and Lady Antebellum make the list too

Get ready for a new Taylor Swift assault. As the countdown continues to the Oct. 25 release of her third album, “Speak Now,”  the excitement builds.  How big a deal is this?  We’ll tell you. On release day, Swift will host a private performance for contest winners around the world at the United Nations. Yes, the New York City-based body that usually concerns itself with wars and world affairs.

1) Taylor Swift (last week, not ranked):
As “Speak Now,”  powers its way onto the Hot 100 to bow at No. 8 based almost 100% on digital sales, Taylor Swift sets the record for most debuts in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 in the chart’s history. Forever hold your piece.

2) Apple (No. 9):
Steve Jobs’ company can do no wrong as industry insiders talk up its possible subscription service over those potentially offered by Google or Spotify and the stock reaches an all-time high this week of $299.50. 

3) Toby Keith (not ranked): Country gunslinger who couldn’t go pop even with firecrackers in his mouth, as the saying goes, tops the Billboard 200 for the fourth time with “Bullets in the Gun.”  On the dubious honor side: His 71,000 tally is the lowest ever sum for a title debuting at No. 1. The real winner: Country music which lands the top album for three weeks in a row.

4) eMusic (not ranked):
The online music store inks a sweet deal to license 250,000 tracks from the Universal Music Group catalog. Is that what you call eHarmony?

5) Eminem and Lady Antebellum (not ranked):
The two have the pair of top selling albums in the country this year, so it makes sense that they both are the big winners in the American Music Award nominations with five nods each.

6) Lil Wayne (not ranked):  He gets more done in jail in a week than most artists do in a year. Now he’s bundling “I Am Not Free,” which will likely come in at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 next week, with “DefJam Rapstar” this week.  It’s amazing what happens when you’re forced to focus.

7. VEVO (not ranked): 
The Universal/Sony-owned online video outlet continues to soar as it tops all music sites in September.  Take that, MTV.

 8. Prince (not ranked):
The Purple One has always had impeccable taste in music (well, okay, let’s forgive him Mayte) and now he’s taking Janelle Monae, Mint Condition, Esperanza Spalding and Cassandra Wilson on the road in the “Welcome 2 America” tour, starting in December.  Our only comment: Go. In a little red corvette, if possible.

9. Big Time Rush (not ranked):  Unless you have little girls, you’ve probably never heard of BTR, the boy band from the Nickelodeon TV show of the same name. With zero mainstream visibility, BTR will come in at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 this week. The Jonas Bros. are dying a little bit inside.

10. T.I. (not ranked):
Rapper helps talk a suicidal man off a 22-story ledge in Atlanta as he could face heading back to prison following a probation hearing on Friday.  Seems like he took his own song, “Got Your Back,” literally.

Music Power Rankings appears every Friday.  What do you think of this week's rankings?  Share your thoughts below.

Last week's power rankings

 

 

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<p>Eminem and Lil Wayne</p>

Eminem and Lil Wayne

Credit: AP Photo

What rapper could rebound to No. 1 next week on the Billboard 200?

Lil Wayne or Eminem?

Look for a big jump on next week’s Billboard 200 as Lil Wayne’s “I am Not a Human Being” could soar 16-1. Why the jump after it dropped from No. 2 last week? Because Lil Wayne released the album as a digital-only product first and the title sold enough to come in at No. 2. It then dropped to 16, but with the physical component added this week, it should rise again. It’s a smart trick and an interesting experiment as digital album sales start to outweigh physical ones.

Going into the weekend, it looks like Weezy has a commanding enough lead to secure the top spot: his biggest challenger is Darius Rucker, whose “Charleston, SC 1966” is on target to sell up to 80,000, but that’s still 15,000 less than Lil Wayne’s projected sales, according to Hits Daily Double.

Coming in at No. 3 will likely be Big Time Rush, the boy band from the Nickelodeon show of the same name, with sales of up to 65,000.

Eminem’s “Recovery,” which is stuck like glue in Billboard 200’s top 5, will hang in there to claim the No. 4 spot.

As we’ve noticed, country music is really holding its own this year with Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” second only to “Recovery” as the top seller of the year. The genre’s primacy shows on next week’s chart:  In addition to Rucker, four other Top 10 titles are sporting cowboy hats: Kenny Chesney’s former No. 1, “Hemingway’s Whiskey,” is poised to round out the Top 5, although it could have to settle for No. 6 as newcomers The Band Perry vie for the No. 5 spot with their self-titled debut. Zac Brown Band, who topped the chart three weeks ago, is in a dead heat with this week’s chart topper, Toby Keith, for the No. 7 slot.

The only other debut in the Top 10 will possibly be “For We Are Many,” the latest from metal core band All That Remains.

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