<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.

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<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.

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<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

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<p>Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly</p>

Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly

Watch: Holiday Cheer from Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly

It's another remake of the Bowie/Crosby classic 'Little Drummer Boy'

We don’t really know what has inspired the homages to Bing Crosby/David Bowie’s awkward duet of “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” that’s since turned into a classic, but we just got our second remake in as many weeks.

Following Jack Black/Jason Segal’s far superior animated version, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly have served up their own Christmas salute to odd couple. Ferrell and Reilly go pretty much for a note-for-note recreation of the Crosby/Bowie TV special--down to the baby blue sweater-- but somehow manage to make it even creepier than the original. 

They only veer off at the end, when fake Bowie and Bing’s conversation ends on a less than peaceful note. It’s pretty tame by “Funny or Die” standards and pretty unfunny, but if you’re a Ferrell or Reilly fan, you may find it amusing. We’ve provided the original underneath the new version, in case you’re feeling old school.

[Watch the videos after the jump...]

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<p>Diddy Dirty Money</p>

Diddy Dirty Money

Watch: Diddy Dirty Money and Swizz Beatz get their 'Ass on the Dance Floor'

Diddy creates a disco apocalypse

Is this his early Christmas present to his fans? Diddy just released his third video in as many weeks from his new album, “Last Train to Paris.”  For “Ass on the Dance Floor,” director Colin Tilley creates an apocalyptic winter wonderland complete with ice floats, dark, claustrophobic imagery.

We also love how Diddy and Swizz Beatz, whose refrain here totally makes the song, are work as can be, completely bundled up, but the Dawn and Kalenna (the two women in Diddy Dirty Money) are strolled around in mini skirts with only mink shrugs to keep them warm. Thank God it’s a set and not the real thing. Brrrr.

 Diddy doesn’t really show up until his rap around 2:50. To his credit, he’s created a song that doesn’t really need him. We’re not sure that’s what he meant to do. Anyway, enjoy the great beat and get your ass on the dance floor.


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<p>Ciara, &quot;Basic Instinct&quot;</p>

Ciara, "Basic Instinct"

Michael Jackson, R.Kelly, Diddy and Crystal Bowersox lead Dec. 14 release slate

Ciara and Tank also weigh in on R&B-heavy week

R&B albums dominate the last major release date before Christmas, as we get new sets from Ciara, R. Kelly, and Diddy Dirty Money. Plus, a posthumous Michael Jackson set arrives for the holidays, as does the major label debut from "American Idol" runner up Crystal Bowersox.

Crystal Bowersox, “Farmer’s Daughter” (19 Recordings/Jive): Season 9 “American Idol” runner-up shows off her singer/songwriter chops by penning 10 of the 12 songs on her Jive debut. Read review here.

Greyson Chance, “Waiting Outside the Lines” (ElevenEleven/Guy Oseary/Geffen): In case you can’t wait for his full-length album next year, high school kid who caused an YouTube sensation with his cover of Lady GaGa’s “Paparazzi” puts out three songs just in time for Christmas, including, of course, “Paparazzi” and first single, “Waiting Outside the Lines.”

Ciara, “Basic Instinct” (LaFace): It’s barely been a year since her last album, “Fantasy Ride,” but the R&B/pop singer is already back. First single, “Ride,” came out way back in April, and two other singles have already hit radio. In her official bio, she explains her motivation:  “Ultimately, Ciara hopes to set herself and her family up so they never have commercial concerns. Planning for tomorrow, Ciara focuses on handling her business today. I talk to my team, I say, “We got to get that money’.” It’s up to you whether you want to help her out or not.

Diddy Dirty Money, “Last Train to Paris” (Bad Boy/Atlantic):
It’s P Diddy and two female singers plus a train-load of his famous friends on his fifth studio album. See if you can find them buried underneath contributions from Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown, Lil wayne, Drake and nearly a dozen more. Four tracks on the set, which Diddy describes as “electro-hip-hop-soul-funk,” have already been released, including R&B hit “Hello Good Morning” featuring T.I.

Michael Jackson, “Michael” (Epic): MJ’s first posthumous album filled with all previously-unreleased treats. The work spans from way back to the “Thriller” era up to shortly before his 2009 death. Producers Akon and Teddy Riley are among those who completed the 10 tunes.

R. Kelly, “Love Letter” (Jive): Kelly shows off his romantic side on this set, inspired by such influences as Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke. First single, “When a Woman Loves,” received a Grammy nomination for best traditional R&B vocal performance.

Leona Lewis, “The Labyrinth Tour: Live from the O2,” (J): British thrush’s light has dimmed Stateside slightly, but not her voice. It remains strong and vibrant on this live set from London’s O2 arena.

Tank, Now or Never” (Atlantic):
His switch from Blackstreet to Atlantic slowed the release of the R&B singers for a hot minute, but he’s back with a suite of sexy tunes. Clothing optional.

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<p>Crystal Bowersox, &quot;Farmer's Daughter&quot;</p>

Crystal Bowersox, "Farmer's Daughter"

Album Review: Crystal Bowersox's 'Farmer's Daughter'

Does the 'American Idol' runner up sow the seeds for success?

American Idol” has been going through growing pains lately. Ratings for the past season were down, they’re rearranging judges and, in the most obvious sign of viewer fatigue, albums from contestants are sinking like a stone.

The most obvious casualty is Season Nine winner Lee DeWyze, whose “Live It Up,” has sold less than 70,000 in its first three weeks and is falling fast. Does a similar fate await runner up Crystal Bowersox with her debut, “Farmer’s Daughter” out Dec. 14?

Hopefully not because it deserves better, although we say that we some reservations. There are some fine tracks on here-- just enough to make me wish that the album were stronger than it is because there is promise as Bowersox attempts to show us she is a singer/songwriter worth taking seriously. Bowersox has a lovely voice and can belt at times. She wants to follow in the footsteps of her idols Janis Joplin and Melissa Etheridge, but, unfortunately, she has none of their natural grit. There are also a number of misfires that prevent the album from being all it could be.

The album opens with  “Whatever happened to good old rock and roll,” the first line of the catchy “Ridin’ With the Radio.”  She goes on to sing “The shit that they play now, it just don’t feel like it should.” Suggestion No. 1: when you’re a new artist, it might be smart to not piss off the radio folks that you’re hoping will play your music right from the start.  I’m sure the intent was to be all rebellious and declare her authenticity because she’s got a song (“Ooh, look how edgy Crystal is!”) and she’s going to just sing it, but the minute she appeared on “American Idol,” she showed a certain willingness to play the game.

[More after the jump...]

Another issue is sequencing. When the second song on the album is a cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” that sends out a bit of distress signal that there wasn’t enough strong glue to hold the album together. On a debut, you pull out a cover like that for the last position on the album or a bonus track. I could be wrong, but there seems to be no connection between Bowersox and the song--she didn’t perform it on “AI.”  It’s an odd choice for an album that is  intensely self-reflective.

Indeed, “Farmer’s Daughter” is a treasure trove of confessions and personal moments: she even includes “Mason” here, a song she and her husband sang to each other at their October wedding.  Bowersox wrote eight of the songs by herself and co-wrote two others. She has moments of strong songcraft, such as on the top-tapping delightful “Lonely,” a bouncy track that sounds straight off a Sugarland album. She also sings of the terrible abuse she suffered and this is where there seems to be the biggest disconnect. On the title track (and first single), she sings “When you broke bones, I told the school I fell down the stairs.”  A recounting of such a horrible, intolerable childhood should evoke a much stronger, punch-in-the-gut response than it does, but because it’s delivered like every other line in the song, it doesn’t.

And that’s the ultimate problem with “Farmer’s Daughter.”  To Bowersox and producer David Bendeth’s credit, this album sounds exactly like the album she wanted to make and yet, oddly,  the emotional connection to the songs just isn’t there. I don’t think we’re going to have Bowersox coming back in six months saying she didn’t get her way on here (despite the presence of a Kara DioGuardi/Chad Kroeger song that doesn’t add anything to the album). The album is folkie in spots where it should be, bluesy when Bowersox clearly wants it to be, such as on “Speak Now” (not to be confused with Taylor Swift’s song and track of the same name), and pure pop when it should be. There’s nothing on here that doesn’t sound authentically hers, and yet none of it resonates the way it should. Here’s hoping she gets another chance because there’s talent her, but just like any farmer knows, every crop develops in its own time and maybe the songs here were harvested a bit too soon.

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<p>Susan Boyle</p>

Susan Boyle

Credit: ABC

Can T.I. knock Susan Boyle out of the top slot in the Billboard 200?

'Tis the season for holiday albums to dominate the chart

Just as she owned the charts this time last year, Susan Boyle continues her reign at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 next week, as “The Gift” is poised to sell up to 270,000, according to Hits Daily Double. The fall’s other It girl, Taylor Swift, continues to sell briskly surpassing the 200,000 mark to land at No. 2, while “Glee’s” Christmas album and Jackie Evancho’s “O Holy Night”  are in a dead heat for No. 3

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<p>Carrie Underwood</p>

Carrie Underwood

Credit: Matt Sayles

Music Power Rankings: Train rolls to the top

What is The Doors' Jim Morrison doing on the list?

Four year ago, Train had run off the rails. The band was on an extended hiatus of undetermined length, possibly forever. But during that break, the three key members, Pat Monahan, Jimmy Stafford and Scott Underwood, began to miss each other, and, moreso, the music they created together. They switched management companies, changed up some other key behind-the-scenes personnel, but, more importantly, altered their attitude and focused on the pluses of being together, rather than the minuses. The result?  Not just a comeback single,but “Hey Soul Sister” is the top-selling tune of the year for iTunes. That means it sold more than any song by Katy Perry, Eminem, Rihanna or Ke$ha, all of whom got the lion’s share of the attention. Not only that, according to Billboard, “Hey Soul Sister” is the only song by a rock band to land in the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 all year.

1) Train (last week, not ranked): “Hey Soul Sister” sells a staggering 4.6 million downloads. Clearly many people feel “a game show love connection” to “Sister.”

2) Carrie Underwood (not ranked): She’s crowned the big winner——with six trophies, or guitars as the case may be here---at the inaugural American Country Awards. If an artist wins an award on a barely seen awards show does it still count?

3) Class of 2011 (not ranked): What do Neil Diamond, Alice Cooper, Tom Waits, Dr. John and Darlene Love all have in common? They are the inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2011, according to Hits Daily Double--although the official announcement doesn't come out until Wednesday. See Alice, school is never really out.

4) Jim Morrison (not ranked): Nearly 40 years after his death, The Doors front man has been pardoned by the state of Florida, cleared of his indecent exposure charge from a 1969 concert. Wherever he is, the Lizard King is laughing his ass off.

5) Aretha Franklin (not ranked): The Queen of Soul, and simply one of the most powerful voices and forces in music for five decades, is diagnosed with cancer. Sending her nothing but get well wishes.

6) Doug Morris (not ranked):  Once Lucian Grange took over, some folks were all too ready to put the UMG chief out to pasture, but it looks like he will find yet another life as CEO of Sony Music--in his 70s. If it comes to pass, that means he’s headed three of the four major record companies: Warner Music Group, UMG and Sony.

7)  Barry Weiss (No. 4) : As Morris possibly comes to Sony, the talented Weiss leaves to go to UMG. Will he take a bevy of Jive artists with him as soon as he’s able?

8) Spotify (not ranked): The ad-supported streaming service, already big in Europe, announces that it won’t launch in the U.S. by year’s end as had been planned. Whether Spotify is ever able to make a go of it in the U.S. remains to be seen but it has made the industry sit up and seriously pay attention to ad-supported and subscription models in a way, after other players have failed. 

9) Susan Boyle (not ranked): You may not listen to her-- and radio barely plays her-- but someone sure as hell is. For the second straight holiday season, she’s dominated the charts. She is “The Gift” that keeps on giving.

10) Howard Stern (not ranked): He tells listeners that he has re-signed with Sirius XM. Sources say the five-year contract will pay the King of All Media for $400 million or as the Daily Beast broke it down: $2,008/minute on the air.

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Credit: Chris Pizzello/AP

Hey, guess who has the top-selling single on iTunes in 2010?

Which two artists land two songs in the top 10?

“Hey Soul Sister,” Train’s comeback single, brought the San Francisco band back in a big way: so big that the finger-snapping song was the top-selling tune on iTunes in 2010, according to the music download service.

“Sister” sold a staggering 4.6 million copies.

Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” featuring Snoop Dogg snagged second place, while Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie” featuring Rihanna came in third (Eminem’s “Recovery” was the top selling album on iTunes, as it was at retail in general.

Rounding out the top 10 are B.o.B’s “Airplanes” featuring Hayley Williams,  Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite,” Usher’s “OMG,” Taio Cruz’s “Break Your Heart” featuring Ludicris,  Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok,” Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” and Eminem’s “Not Afraid.”


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