Credit: Matt Sayles/AP

Music Power Rankings: The 2010 year-end version

Who lands at the top spot? Eminem? Lady Gaga? Taylor Swift?

2010 was another tough year in the music industry: record sales continued to plummet--down another 13% from the previous year-- and ticket sales fell off a cliff, as the live concert industry had its worst year in decades. Even if it feels like we’re just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, there were a number of bright spots that reinforced that artistry is alive and well and that the audience for good music is still vibrant. As much as this year will be remembered for such disappointing returns (at least commercially) by the likes of Lilith Fair and Christina Aguilera, it will also be seen as a renaissance for pop music and a rapper named Marshall Mathers, but whom we all know as Eminem.

1) Eminem: Was there ever any doubt? “Recovery” was the top-selling album of the year, staging a strong comeback after the disappointing “Relapse.” Em also led all Grammy nominations with 10 and he and Jay-Z sold out four stadium dates. The only question is how is he going to top this in 2011?

2) Lady Gaga: Without a new album out, Lady Gaga was able to concentrate on building the perfect Little Monster empire by touching virtually every corner of the earth on tour. And develop her side career as a fashion-forward butcher and as a political voice campaigning for the repeal of DADT.  There may have been artists who have worked harder at connecting with their audience, but we don’t know who they are.

3) Pop Music: 2010 was one of the strongest years in pop in more than a decade. Much of it is gloriously disposable, but by its very job description, some pop is meant to be ephemeral and totally of the moment—like Katy Perry’s delicious “California Gurls.” Somewhere, a pop factory kept churning out new R&B/pop male creatures: Mike Posner, Drake, Bruno Mars, Jason DeRulo, Taio Cruz...the list goes on.

[More after the jump...]

4) Taylor Swift: Swift  convincingly rose to the challenge, shutting down any critics (this one included) who wondered if she could transition from the awkward school girl who wrote about being 15 and the band geek to a young woman. And she sold 1 million copies of “Speak Now”  in the first week telling us about it. Probably the only one who wishes she’d go back to high school is John Mayer.

5) Lady Antebellum: With less fanfare than Taylor Swift, this co-ed country trio very steadily and stealthily transitioned from newcomers to superstars in country with a healthy budding audience in pop as well. Rarely have artists avoided sophomore slump with such grace. We definitely need them now.

6) "Glee": Every week, “Glee” seeming sets a new record, whether it’s landing more records on Hot 100 than any other artist in history or propelling songs the cover back up the charts by the original artist. As powerful as “American Idol” was as a singles driver in its prime, it had nothing on “Glee,” which may be the most potent multimedia mix of television and internet we have yet to see.  And mind you, radio does not even enter into this equation.

7) Irving Azoff: As head of Live Nation Entertainment (which includes the world’s largest promoter and one of the biggest management companies), Azoff sets the agenda for much of the music industry and yet, he still finds time to Tweet, often to hilarious effect.

8) Justin Bieber: It’s too soon to tell if he’s just this year’s model when it comes to  teen idols or if he’ll have a career three years from now, but he’s setting himself up smartly to be one of the very few to be able to move into adulthood with a career. Plus, can more than 1 billion YouTube views really mean no one will care two years from now?

9) Kanye West: He stayed quiet for the first half of the year as he repented from Swift-gate, but then came on strong for the last half, pummeling us with free music and then wrapping up the year with one of the top albums of the year, the aptly-titled “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” He’ll never been as incredible as he is in his own mind, but at even half that, he is a flat-out genius. A crazy one, but a genius nonetheless.

10) Vevo: The online video channel is only a little more than a year old, but the Google/Universal Music Group/Sony venture has taken the online video world by storm, often surpassing Viacom (which owns MTV, CMT, VH1, etc) in monthly viewers. Plus, its picture quality is astonishing, just check out the most recent additions from Ray Lamontagne and Bruce Springsteen. It’s how to do music videos right on the internet.

Music Power Brokers appears every week on Hitfix. We're taking a two-week break for the holidays, but will be back Jan. 6. Happy Holidays!

 Follow Melinda Newman on Twitter at @MelindaNewman

Read Full Post
<p>Rascal Flatts</p>

Rascal Flatts

Credit: AP

Country stars sign on to appear in new HBO mini-series, 'To Appomattox'

Stars will also write music for the Civil War drama

We have to imagine they will all be on the Confederacy side, but a number of country artists have signed on to star and/or create music for HBO’s forthcoming Civil War mini-series, “To Appomattox.”

The series, about the final battle of the Civil War,  stars Michael C. Hall as General Ulysses S. Grant, William Petersen as General William Tecumseh Sherman, Paul Giamatti as James “Pete” Longstreet and Bill Paxton as Stonewall Jackson.

Among the country artists who will have roles are the members of Rascal Flatts, Dwight Yoakam, Kix Brooks (formerly of Brooks & Dunn), and Laura Bell Bundy, according to The Boot.  All will also contribute to the soundtrack. Five for Fighting’s John Ondrasik will also provide a song for the series.

In a real southern twist, NASCAR has affiliated with the series, and, according to the show’s website, certain NASCAR drivers will sign on to play certain roles, including Carl Edwards, who will play General John B. Gordon. We're not making this last bit up.

And speaking of Rascal Flatts, the lads will sing with Justin Bieber on his forthcoming duets album on "That Should Be Me," from "My World 2.0" (now many times is the Biebster going to repurpose songs from this first two albums?)  Rascal Flatts lead singer told MSN's One Country he's a Bieber fan: “The kid is really talented,” LeVox says. “He plays five or six different instruments really well.”


Read Full Post
<p>Bruce Springsteen in &quot;The Promise&quot;</p>

Bruce Springsteen in "The Promise"

Watch: Bruce Springsteen's free concert from 'The Promise'

Plus he takes on an Elvis classic for Christmas

As any Bruce Springsteen fan knows (and any regular Hitfix readers know I’m a Springsteen fanatic), there is nothing like a Springsteen concert. But since there are none of those on the docket right now,  the Boss has given us the next best thing. And better yet, it’s for free.

Springsteen and the E Street Band took to the Asbury Park’s Carousel House last week for a mini-concert featuring four songs from “The Promise.” Filmed in front of 60 fans, the show was beautifully directed and edited by Thom Zimny and mixed by Bob Clearmountain.

Springsteen, who looks criminally buff for 61, performs “Racing in the Street (’78),” “Gotta Get That Feeling,” “Ain’t Good Enough For You,” “The Promise” and then, because ‘tis the season, he throws in a cover of Elvis’s “Blue Christmas.”  The clips are airing on Vevo.com.

Watch while you can: the clips air until Jan. 1 and then they’re gone (we’re sure they will come back in some form for purchase).


Read Full Post
<p>Lil Wayne</p>

Lil Wayne

Listen: Lil Wayne reveals first single from 'Tha Carter IV'

Tall track, '6'7"' kicks off countdown to much-anticipated set

Lil Wayne has released the first single from “Tha Carter IV,” slated for release in February.

Read Full Post
<p>Katy Perry</p>

Katy Perry

Katy Perry lights up the Billboard Hot 100 as 'Firework' stays at No. 1

Rihanna and Bruno Mars make serious chart gains

“Firework,” the uplifting third single from Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream,” continues to sparkle as it spends its second week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The song also stays atop the Digital Songs chart, surpassing  200,000 downloads for the week.   “Firework’s” double blast at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 marks the end of five straight weeks of revolving chair in the No. 1 spot and becomes the first single to last more than one week in the pole position since Far*East Movement’s “Like a G6” on the charts for Oct. 30 and Nov. 6, according to Billboard.  “Like a G6” returned to the top for a third non-consecutive week.

Will “Firework” make it for three? Not if Rihanna has her way, as “What’s My Name” featuring Drake is making a play to return to No. 1, moving 3-2 this week.

Looking at the rest of the top 5, Bruno Mars’ “Grenade” blasts 5-3; Pink’s “Raise Your Glass” falls 2-4, and Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R” rebounds 8-5.  Rounding out the top 10, Rihanna's “Only Girl in the World" is No. 6, “The Time (Dirty Bit)” from the Black Eyed Peas moves 4-8,  Nelly’s “Just a Dream” holds at No. 9 and “Bottoms Up” by Trey Songz featuring Nicki Minaj closes out the week at No 10.

It looks like Diddy Dirty Money has its first hit on its hands as P Diddy’s new trio’s “Coming Home” soars 51-24 to earn  Hot 100 Digital  Gainer honors.

The highest debut belongs to imprisoned rapper T.I., whose “That’s All She Wrote” bows at No. 18 wiht “That’s All She Wrote.”   Also starting their chart assaults this week are Chris Brown’s “No BS” at No. 89, “Bass Down Low” from Dev (best known for a guest spot of “Like A G6.”  “Bass” starts at No. 9-, while “Fall For Your Type” from Jamie Foxx featuring Drake begins at No. 95.
Look for things to remain relatively static on the charts for the next few weeks through the holidays, but they’ll heat back up after the new year.

Read Full Post
<p>Jon Bon Jovi</p>

Jon Bon Jovi

Credit: Mel Evans/AP

Bon Jovi is king of the road for 2010

How did Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift fare?

Bon Jovi tops this year’s list of  biggest money makers on tour, grossing $146.5 million from their 69-show Circle outing.

It marks the second time in the past three years that the rock act has landed at No. 1, according to Billboard. The band got a bit of an unexpected boost from second place act U2, which had to cancel its North American summer tour due to Bono’s back injury. Otherwise, U2 may have topped the list.

Read Full Post
<p>Kanye West</p>

Kanye West

Credit: Chris Pizzello/AP

Listen: Kanye West takes you to 'Christmas in Harlem'

Someone's getting a lump of coal in his stocking

It’s good to be nice, but it’s way more fun to be naughty. So believes Kanye West, who is now officially the busiest man in show business.  After taking a bit of time off after Swift-gate last year, West has been making up for lost time, releasing tracks every Friday, tweeting every few seconds, putting out what many critics believe is one of the top albums of the year, and now, coming up with a new holiday song, “Christmas in Harlem.”

The slow jam is an amusing slow jam featuring CyHi Da Prynce and Teyana Taylor about rushing around to get to the mall for those last-minute gifts. Plus,  he hints at some presents that no store can provide.

We like the verse delivered as Santa Clause and it’s good to know that his sleigh is faster than a Porsche. But it would have to be to get around the globe in one night, right?

So does the world really need another Christmas song? No, but we do know this: we’ll take this groove over another tired attempt at a new  wanna-be traditional carol by some diva.

We’re also fond of Taylor’s sung verse around the 3-minute mark that sort of sounds like the Brother Johnson’s “Strawberry Letter No. 23.”

Check it out here.  Then go hit the mall, as Kanye suggests, and give a kiss to Santa Claus.

Read Full Post
<p>Susan Boyle</p>

Susan Boyle

Credit: Shizuo Kambayashi/AP

Does Susan Boyle's 'The Gift' keep on giving on this week's Billboard 200?

T.I.'s 'No Mercy' is the week's top debut

One thing is for sure: Susan Boyle is having a great Christmas. Her holiday-themed sophomore set, “The Gift,” stays at No. 1, gathering its fourth week atop the Billboard 200 albums chart.

The album has now sold more than 1.4 million copies in five weeks, according to Nielsen SoundScan, including 243,000 this week.

Taylor Swift’s “Speak Now” holds at No. 2, but sees a sales uptick of 11% to 201,000 copies, according to Billboard.com. “Glee’s” Christmas album sees a tremendous 49% surge to climb 4-3 with sales of 193,000.

At No. 4, T.I.’s “No Mercy” is this week’s highest debut of the week. While the title sells a respectable 159,000, it’s a far cry from his last set, 2008’s “Paper Trail,” which arrived atop the leader board with opening sales of 568,000.

Only one other new title bows in the Top 10: Daft Punk’s score for “Tron: Legacy.” The set comes in at No. 10 with sales of 71,000, which is more than two times the French duo’s previous best week. Additionally “Tron: Legacy” is the first score album to land in the Top 10 since 2005’s “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.”

Another fun fact: With two “Glee” sets in the Top 10 (in addition to the Christmas set,  “Season Two: Volume 4” stands at No. 8),  there are three soundtracks in the top 10 for the second time this year.

Year-to-year numbers continue to be glum. Year-to-date album sales are 291.45 million, down 13% compared to last year.  Digital sales are up from last year, but only by 1%. Year-to-date digital tracks have sold 1.065 billion.

Read Full Post
<p>Alice Cooper is about to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.</p>

Alice Cooper is about to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

The 2011 Inductees: Did the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame get it right?

Neil Diamond, Alice Cooper, Tom Waits, Dr. John and Darlene Love make the cut

The official announcement won’t come until Wednesday, but as we hinted at here, Neil Diamond, Alice Cooper, Tom Waits, Dr. John and Darlene Love will be the 2011 inductees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Read Full Post
<p>Greyson Chance</p>

Greyson Chance

Watch: Greyson Chance's video for 'Waiting Outside the Lines'

Does new song surpass his cover of Lady Gaga's 'Paparazzi?'

Move over Justin Bieber, there’s a new guy in town.

We first met Greyson Chance last year when his remake of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” became a YouTube sensation and resulted in his signing a deal with Geffen Records, also home to LG. But he’s not just on Geffen: he’s signed to Ellen Degeneres’ new label, Eleven Eleven, which goes through Guy Oseary’s label at Geffen. Oseary manages Madonna and ran her label Maverick.

Flash forward to several months after Chance’s moment in the sun and the 13-year old Chance has released a three-song EP in anticipation of a full album coming in 2011. First single “Waiting Outside the Lines” is one of those songs that 10-year old girls glom on to like a lifeline as if it were written directly for each one of them individually. It’s a treacly piano ballad about not being afraid to take chances and, apparently, it is so magical, it has the ability to conjure up screaming female tweens who circle around Chance and his piano like bees to honey. No cliche is spared in the video, including the pouring rain at the end (which Chance is so clearly not enjoying).

“I’m here to help you notice the rainbow, because I know what’s in you is out there,” he sings. That’s a lot of weight to carry on his slender little teen shoulders. His voice is serviceable, but I can’t help but feel sadness that all it takes to get a record deal these days is YouTube notoriety. Given that it’s eight months since his version of “Paparazzi” hit YouTube and the best Geffen has squeezed out is a three-song EP (that includes “Paparazzi,” “Waiting Outside the Lines” and a remake of Augustana’s “Fire”), any ability to capture on the excitement from that original YouTube video has long passed. It could also be that it is taking a little longer to develop Chance than expected, although that’s totally a guess on our part.  We’ll know more when the album comes out next year, as well as from how Chance does on tour. He’s headed out to open for Miranda Cosgrove starting in January.  Dates are below the video link.

"Waiting Outside the Lines" Available Now, CD Single in Stores!

2011 TOUR DATES (Supporting Miranda Cosgrove):

DATE        CITY                           VENUE
Jan-24       Kansas City, MO        Uptown              
Jan-25       Minneapolis, MN        State Theatre
Jan-26       Milwaukee, WI           Pabst Theatre
Jan-28       Rosemont, IL             Rosemont Theatre       
Jan-29       Indianapolis, IN          Murat Theatre
Jan-30       Cleveland, OH           Playhouse Square Center- State Theatre
Feb- 1        Detroit, MI                 The Fillmore
Feb-2         Munhall, PA               Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead
Feb-4         Wallingford, CT         Oakdale Theatre
Feb-5         New York, NY            Beacon Theatre
Feb-6         Glenside, PA             Keswick Theatre
Feb-9         Bethesda, MD           Music Center at Stathmore
Feb-10       Lowell, MA                Lowell Auditorium
Feb-12       Montclair, NJ             Wellmont Theatre
Feb-13       Westbury, NY            Theater at Westbury
Feb-15       Atlanta, GA                Center Stage
Feb-16       Tampa, FL                 Tampa Theatre
Feb-17       Orlando, FL               Hard Rock
Feb-20       Houston, TX              House of Blues
Feb-23       Tempe, AZ                 Marquee Theater
Feb-24       Anaheim, CA             House of Blues

Read Full Post