<p>Justin Bieber</p>

Justin Bieber

Watch: Justin Bieber wants a better world in 'Pray' -- bring a hankie

And the countdown to a country cover starts now

It would be so easy to be cynical about Justin Bieber’s new video for “Pray,” the one new song on his acoustic set, “My Worlds Acoustic.” But we come to praise the Bieb, not bury him.

The song, which we reviewed here, is a lovely testament to the power of prayer. It’s for True Believers, not just True Beliebers (sorry, we couldn’t resist), and even those sitting on the fence.

The song is Bieber’s “Man in the Mirror” moment. To be sure, “Pray” doesn’t have that staying power or that  resonance of the Michael Jackson classic, but its themes of being the best self you can be (with or without a higher power) and how to affect change are the same.

[More after the jump...]

Scenes of Haiti, our troops in harm’s way, the homeless and other dispiriting images are interspersed with Bieber visiting with Make-A-Wish kids and hospitalized children.  Say what you will about the kid’s talent, but it is remarkable that at 16 he is mature enough to handle  spending time with a terminally ill children. Just try to look at some of the Make-A-Wish footage without crying.

Two things to look out for: it looks like our little Bieber may not be old enough to vote in the U.S. (and, oh yeah, he’s Canadian), but he’s not above making a political statement or two. One of the images features people holding up signs that read “Health Care Can’t Wait.” Is that a veiled endorsement of Obamacare (In Canada, health care is a right)?  He also sings, “I pray for the life not started,” which could be interpreted as a pro-life message.

There’s no misinterpreting the final message written across the screen: “God Speaks in the Silence of the Heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.”  Pop and rock powers-that-be are often squirmy about unambiguous, clear religious messages for fear of their acts seeming like Bible Thumpers, but Bieber clearly is not. We don’t know if there was any label push back about any of the messages in the video, but we have a hunch he just found himself a whole bunch of new Youth for Christ fans (although, please note, he never mentions a denomination, nor the word “God.”)

Country music is not so scared to embrace religion (as long as it is Christianity), so we bet within four months, there’s a country cover of this song.

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<p>Black Eyed Peas</p>

Black Eyed Peas

Black Eyed Peas, Jazmine Sullivan and Flo Rida lead Nov. 30 release slate

Tim McGraw and Soulja Boy also check in

After two extremely crowded release slates, we start to see the trickle to year’s end begin. To be sure, there are still big acts putting out new sets  this week, such a The Black Eyed Peas and Flo Rida, but don’t look for a near total takeover of the Billboard 200 as we’ve seen in recent weeks.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Kanye West</p>

Kanye West

Credit: Nousha Salimi/AP

Does Kanye West or Nicki Minaj come out atop the Billboard 200 next week?

What about new sets from Ke$ha, My Chemical Romance and Justin Bieber?

Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” which is garnering rave reviews, is a lock to come in at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 next week (read our review here).

Targeted sales are around 575,000 for the title, which means it will best West’s last album, “808s and Heartbreak,” by more than 100,000 units in its first week, according to Hits Daily Double.

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<p>Rihanna</p>

Rihanna

Credit: Charles Sykes/AP

Music Power Rankings: Rihanna's our only girl in the world

What happens to last week's leader, the Beatles?

Rihanna’s “Rated R” may have been a slight commercial career slip, but with “Loud,”  the Barbados singer is back, uh, loud and clear. “Loud” lands at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, but even more impressively, Rihanna scores her second No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in three weeks.  After “What’s My Name,” the second single from “Loud,” reached the summit, “Only Girl (In the World,” the album’s first single, peaked at No. 1, marking the only time a debut single from an album has reached the top after the next single. More importantly, “Only Girl” is her ninth No. 1, making her the most successful artist on the Hot 100 this millennium. We don’t know how long she’ll have that record, but it sure sounds impressive.

1. Rihanna (not ranked last week): 
As “Only Girl (In the World)” goes to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100,  she sets the record for the most chart toppers on the Hot 100 for any artist in the millennium.  Another week, another record.

2. Kanye West (not ranked):
He can’t get out of his own way every time he opens his mouth, except for when he steps into the studio and and records groundbreaking music. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” may finally get him all the recognition he so clearly believes he deserves.

3. Black Eyed Peas (not ranked): After years of turning to middle-aged white male rockers to supply the half-time entertainment, the Super Bowl names the Black Eyed Peas as headliners for the 2011 games. That’s so “2000 and late,” but better late than never.

4. Groupon (not ranked):
Amid rumors of a purchase by Google, Groupon makes major moves into the music industry by offering Rihanna’s “Loud” through its daily promotional deals for $5.

5. NKOTBBSB (not ranked):
Yes, after their show-closing performing on Sunday’s American Music Awards, tickets for New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys’ joint arena tour went on sale with the July 1 Los Angeles Staples Center date selling out. Looks like they still have the right stuff.

6. Justin Bieber (not ranked):
He goes four for four at the American Music Awards. The Awards, however, are not so lucky—they garner the lowest ratings in their history. Coincidence?

7. Kenny Chesney (not ranked):
After taking a year off to road, Chesney returns with a vengeance by setting records for most career stadium sellouts at both Foxboro’s Gillette Stadium and Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field Stadium next year. This boy of fall just became a boy of summer.

8. The Beatles (No 1): In the Fab Four’s first week on iTunes, they sell more than 450,000 albums  and 2 million individual songs worldwide. Rocky Raccoon may be the only one who doesn’t own music by the Fab Four.

9. Susan Boyle (No. 2): Despite tremendous competition, including eight new acts debuting in the top 10, Boyle continues to reign supreme on the Billboard 200, as her second week’s sales remain almost the same as her debut week. She’s the gift that keeps on giving.

10. Jackie Evancho (not ranked): 
Pint-sized singer with preternaturally big voice proves her “America’s Got Talent” success was no fluke as she debuts at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. Unlike “American Idol,” this reality show still sells albums for its contestants.

Music Power Rankings appear every Friday in The Beat Goes On.

Last week's power rankings

http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/the-beat-goes-on/posts/music-power-rankings-brits-rule-as-the-beatles-susan-boyle-and-rolling-stones-make-the-list

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<p>After some time on the big screen, Janet Jackson is returning to music with a brand new tour.</p>

After some time on the big screen, Janet Jackson is returning to music with a brand new tour.

Credit: AP Photo/Pete Kramer

Janet Jackson takes 35 of her best friends on the road next year

Fans pick the cities for her greatest hits tour

Janet Jackson will undergo her “largest ever world tour” next year. The routing? It’s up to the fans.

“This tour will be different from the those of  past in the way I will perform music exclusively from my No. 1s. You’ll hear all the hits,” Jackson says in a message to her fans on the website.

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<p>Rihanna at the 2010 American Music Awards.</p>

Rihanna at the 2010 American Music Awards.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Rihanna hits No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 again and sets many records

Who does she surpass in the record books?

Rihanna knocks Far East Movement’s “Like a G6” out of the top spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 and makes a little history in the process.

“Only Girl (In the World)” jumps to No. 1 this week, giving Rihanna her second single from “Loud” to hit the top spot. Two weeks ago, “What’s My Name” featuring Drake was at No. 1. "Loud" debuts at No. 3 this week on the Billboard 200.

This marks the first time that an album’s second single made it to the summit before the debut single, according to Billboard.  Additionally, Rihanna is the first female to score four No. 1s on the Billboard Hot 100 in a calendar year.  Usher has also achieved that feat. “Only Girl” is her ninth single to reach the top since 2000, making Rihanna the leader among all artists for the most No. 1s in the millennium.

Has Rihanna made a real come back?  Are you over "Like a G6" yet?
 

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<p>PJ Harvey</p>

PJ Harvey

PJ Harvey sets Valentine's Day for new album, 'Let England Shake'

Flood-produced set recorded in a British church

British singer/songwriter PJ Harvey will release her eighth studio album, “Let England Shake,” Feb. 14 on Island Records.

Harvey recorded the album in a 19th century church in Dorset, England with co-producer Flood, as well as longtime collaborators, John Parish and Mick Harvey, according to her website.

Harvey had previously announced a largely-sold out  European tour that kicks off Feb. 18 in Brussels. There is no word on U.S. dates yet, although Harvey is expected to add a number of festival dates to her schedule. In addition to Mick Harvey and Parish, her live band will include Jean-Marc Butty.

“Let England Shake” is her first solo album since 2007’s “White Chalk.”  "We played most of the music live," Harvey told UK music magazine, NME.  "I didn’t set down any rules. For some reason, we were all in a very good place, with a lot of energy, intensity and vitality in us at that time. It was a really enjoyable experience, and I think the record’s ended up full of energy and quite an uplifting experience because of it."

 

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<p>Taylor Swift</p>

Taylor Swift

Credit: AP Photo

Taylor Swifts sets tour dates for 2011 'Speak Now' tour

She becomes third act to plan stadium shows for next year

Taylor Swift will take to the road to support her blockbuster third album, “Speak Now,”  starting Feb. 9 in Singapore.

The “Speak Now World Tour” will play in 19 countries covering four continents over the course of 87 shows. Swift’s manifest destiny is spreading: her last tour, 2009/2010’s “Fearless” outing, spanned only five countries.

She’s also headlining a number of stadiums, including returning to Foxborough, Mass.’s Gillette Stadium, the closing date for the “Fearless” tour. (For those keeping count, her stadium tour is the third we already know about in 2011: she joins Kenny Chesney and U2. Plus, the rumored Rolling Stones outing will likely be a stadium tour).

The North American portion starts May 27 in Omaha, Neb., and is sponsored by Covergirl. Tickets start at $25. The tour promoter is The Messina Group. No word on when tickets go on sale.

DATE                                   CITY
February 9                              Singapore
February 11                             Seoul, South Korea
February 13                             Osaka, Japan
February 16 & 17                        Tokyo, Japan
February 19                             Manila, Philippines
February 21                             Hong Kong
March 6                         Brussels, Belgium
March 7                         Rotterdam, Holland
March 9                         Oslo, Norway
March 12                                Oberhausen, Germany
March 15                                Milan, Italy
March 17                                Paris, France
March 19                                Madrid, Spain
March 22                                Birmingham, UK
March 25                                Belfast, Northern Ireland
March 27                                Dublin, Ireland
March 29                                Manchester, UK
March 30                                London, UK
May 27 & 28                             Omaha, Nebraska
May 29                                  Des Moines, Iowa
June 2 & 3                              Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
June 4                                  Orlando, Florida
June 7                                  Columbus, Ohio
June 8                                  Milwaukee, Wisconsin
June 11                                 Detroit, Michigan
June 14 & 15                            St. Paul, Minnesota
June 18                                 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
June 21                                 Buffalo, New York
June 22                                 Hartford, Connecticut
June 25                                 Foxborough, Massachusetts
June 30                                 Greensboro, North Carolina
July 1                                  Knoxville, Tennessee
July 2                                  Louisville, Kentucky
July 8                                  Charlotte, North Carolina
July 9 & 10                             Atlanta, Georgia
July 14                                 Montreal, Quebec
July 15 & 16                            Toronto, Ontario
July 19 & 20                            New York, New York
July 28                                 Grand Rapids, Michigan
July 29                                 Indianapolis, Indiana
July 30                                 Cleveland, Ohio
August 2 & 3                            Washington, DC
August 6                                Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
August 9 & 10                           Chicago, Illinois
August 13                               Lexington, Kentucky
August 14                               St. Louis, Missouri
August 18 & 19                          Edmonton, Alberta
August 23 & 24                          Los Angeles, California
September 1 & 2                         San Jose, California
September 3                             Sacramento, California
September 6                             Portland, Oregon
September 7                             Seattle, Washington
September 10 & 11                       Vancouver, British Columbia
September 16 & 17                       Nashville, Tennessee
September 21                            Tulsa, Oklahoma
September 24                            Kansas City, Missouri
September 27                            Denver, Colorado
September 28                            Salt Lake City, Utah
October 4                               Little Rock, Arkansas
October 5                               New Orleans, Louisiana
October 8                        

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<p>My Chemical Romance</p>

My Chemical Romance

Credit: AP Photo

Album review: My Chemical Romance's 'Danger Days'

Set in 2019, the collection takes its influences from the past

My Chemical Romance’s new album, “Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys,” out now, is set in the year 2019 in a post-Apocalyptic California, but the music is straight out of ‘70s and ‘80s rock.

Gerard Way and his high-energy band of merry malcontents weren’t around for Styx’s halcyon days, but there’s a little bit of the Grand Illusion in everything MCR does: It’s all about the big gestures: they swing for the fences every time. Whether they hit or miss is almost incidental, but, for the record, they hit much more than they miss here.

MCR had traded in cancer, the internal enemy in 2006’s fine “The Black Parade,” for an external villain here: the bloated excesses of rock, although I’m not sure they succeed in making their point. On MCR’s website, guitarist Frank Iero writes, “At first our instinct was to write a love letter to rock and roll, an entity that inspired us and gave us the opportunity to express our true selves. We later found out the best way to love rock and roll was to set out to destroy it, and the record then became a missile pointed directly at the genre.”  Whatevs.

What matters here more than that somewhat obtuse message is the music and the passion and commitment that MCR exhibits here to providing nothing short of an all-in experience that is the aural equivalent of “Mad Max.”  The snot-nosed kids here are disenfranchised and pissed, and who can blame them. They don’t know what to believe anymore, other than they don’t need another false hero,  but they still cling to some semblance of hope. Or as Way sings in the urgent “Save Yourself, I’ll Hold Them Back”:  “We can live forever if you’re got the time, mother fucker.”

From the punky first single, “Na, Na, Na...” to snyth-driven current single, “Sing,”  and all points in between,  MCR is on a freight train here, speeding toward the end  of days. Remarkably, other than a few times, such as on the fuzzy “Destroya,” they have crafted a thoroughly melodic pop album that even the most weighty of ambitions can’t bring down.  As well crafted as the lyrics are here, the stretch for some sense of profundity in almost every song gets to be a bit much: “You only hear the music when your heart begins to break,” Way sings on “The Kids from Yesterday.” Huh?

The interstitial segments featuring a DJ that bookend the album are totally extraneous, especially the last one followed  by the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner.” (For those of you too young to remember, TV and radio  stations weren’t always 24/7, and when they signed off in the early morning, they played the National Anthem).

The rocket ride slows down only slightly for the lovely, melodic, dreamy  “Summertime,” where the protagonist tells his love, “you can run away with me anytime you want,” to the strains of ‘80s Brit pop. When each tune strives to be an anthem, the ultimate effect is they all lose some of their power, although that’s a small complaint.  This is an album that is meant to take the listener on a journey and it’s a journey that never lets up. By the time album closer, the high-octane, breakneck “Vampire Money,” finishes,  fans will feel ground to a pulp and exhausted, and that’s just the way MCR wants it.

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<p>Justin Bieber's &quot;My Worlds Acoustic&quot;</p>

Justin Bieber's "My Worlds Acoustic"

Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Justin Bieber lead Thanksgiving music releases

Ke$ha and My Chemical Romance also check in

The rush to get new albums in the stores before Black Friday continues as an avalanche of fresh releases hit stores Monday, Nov. 22, and Tuesday, Nov. 23. Nicki Minaj’s “Pink Friday” will give us more of a glimpse of the rapper than one song at a time, while Justin Bieber slows things down with his acoustic set.

We didn’t list them below, but also noteworthy are “The Hits Collection, Volume One,” a two-disc set from Jay-Z, the vinyl reissue of Nine Inch Nail’s “Pretty Hate Machine,” and the expanded edition of The National’s “High Violet.”

Justin Bieber,
“My Worlds Acoustic” (Island/RBMG): The American Music Awards big winner gives nine songs from “My World” and “My World 2.0 the acoustic treatment on this Walmart exclusive. The set also includes the new song, “Pray.”

Ke$ha,
“Cannibal” (RCA/Kemosabe Entertainment): The nine-song companion  to “Animal” is off to a strong start with party anthem, “We R Who We R,” which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. See review here.

Nicki Minaj, “Pink Friday” (Young Money/Cash Money/Universal): Has anyone ever achieved so much acclaim before releasing their debut or guested on so many singles by other artists?  We finally find out if the bewigged one can hold her own on a complete set.

My Chemical Romance,
“Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys” (Reprise): The band’s first album since 2006’s “The Black Parade” is off to a rousing start with first single “Na, Na, etc....” MCR’s post-apocalyptic view of 2019 is a concept set, but each song still stands alone.

Ne-Yo,
“Libra Scale” (Def Jam): Singer/songwriter/dancer—is there nothing he can’t do?—follows up the vaunted “Year of the Gentleman” with “Libra Scale,” a concept album featuring The Gentlemen, who have special powers. There’s a lot to mine there, but, as in most cases with Ne-Yo, it often comes down to the love.

Robyn, “Body Talk” (Konichiwa/Cherrytree/Interscope): The members of the cult of Robyn will eat up the third edition of her “Body Talk” series.

Jessica Simpson,
“Happy Christmas” (Eleven Eleven/Primary Wave): After leaving both Sony’s pop and country divisions, Simpson has now launched her own label. First offering is her holiday set.

Smashing Pumpkins,
“Teargarden By Kaleidyscope Vol II: The Solstice Bare” (Rocket Science): If you didn’t manage to get each song as it was available for free download, you can gather them here in one place.

Sting, “Live in Berlin” (Decca) Der Stingle with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Germany.

Various Artists, Burlesque” (RCA): Soundtrack to this year’s equivalent of “Showgirls” features eight new songs performed by Christina Aguilera and two from Cher, both of whom star in the movie.

Kanye West,
“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” (G.O.O.D. Music):  West’s latest is getting some of the best reviews of his career. See why in our review here. 

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