<p>Taylor Swift</p>

Taylor Swift

Music Power Rankings: Pop rules with Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift, Lady GaGa

We salute the letter A as Avenged Sevenfold and Arcade Fire land in the top 10

There’s a lot of movement in the pop world as Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift and Lady GaGa all have monumental weeks, but we’re giving the slight nod to Swift. There’s been a lot of speculation as to if she can keep the momentum from “Fearless” going, in part, because it’s nearly impossible to capture lightning in a bottle twice, but, more importantly, Swift straddles a difficult line.

She’s not quite as wholesome as a Disney artist (although you could argue she’s much less salacious than Miley Cyrus), yet she seems young enough—at 20—that she shouldn’t be singing about sex, like her near peers in Lady Antebellum.  How does she make that move from the girl who sings repeatedly about high school to the woman who is discovering what she wants from love.

Swift gets it right with “Mine,” the first single from her forthcoming October album, “Speak Now.” The track allegedly “leaked” two weeks before her label, Big Machine, was officially going to release it. Amazingly, within a few hours of the “leak,” the label was ready to service the track to country radio and to iTunes. A lot of folks clearly wanted to make “Mine” theirs, as the track soared to the top of Apple’s download chart.

1) Taylor Swift (not ranked): Excitement for her new project, “Speak Now,” is at such a fever pitch that first single, “Mine,” “leaks,” according to her label, forcing Big Machine to service the song to radio and iTunes two weeks early. “Mine” instantly surges to the top of the iTunes singles chart. Looks like America’s Love Story with Swift continues.

2) Justin Bieber (not ranked): He’s barely old enough to drive (and definitely isn’t tall enough to see over the steering wheel) and yet Justin Bieber is already at work on an autobiography and a 3D biopic/concert film (that was enough to land him the top spot on Movie Power Rankings).  Seven-year olds start saving their weekly .50 cent allowances now for February’s movie opening.

3) Irving Azoff (not ranked): Move over Kanye: The man the NY Times hyperbolically calls the most powerful figure in the history of music industry started tweeting this week. The head of Live Nation Entertainment’s opening salvo:  “So if you want ticket prices to go down, stop stealing music.”  Almost a quarter of his first 17 posts are taking on scribes such as Wall Street Journal’s Ethan Smith and Billboard’s Glenn Peoples. They should consider that the new badge of honor.

4) Avenged Sevenfold (No. 3 last week): The hard rock band does what the likes of Drake and Rick Ross could ot do: they knock the mighty  Marshall Mathers out of the top spot on the Billboard 200 as “Nightmare” replaces Eminem’s “Recovery” at No. 1

5) Arcade Fire (not ranked): Avenged Sevenfold’s glory will burn brightly but be short lived when Arcade Fire torches its way to No. 1 next week with new album, “The Suburbs.”

6) Lady GaGa (not ranked): She leads all nominees for the VMA Awards, and sets a record for most nominations ever, but what really has people talking is her comment to Vanity Fair:  that she doesn’t have sex because she’s afraid someone will “take my creativity from me through my vagina.” Oh honey, were you absent the day that was all explained in sex ed? It doesn’t work that way.

7) Wyclef Jean (No. 10):  He makes it official. Last week, the ex-Fugee hinted that he may run for president in his native Haiti and he has now filed the official paperwork. The election is Nov. 28. I guess the scandal over his Yele Haiti charity doesn’t even register a blip compared to some of the misdeeds by former Haitian leaders. 

8) Farm Aid (not ranked): The multi-artist benefit concert launched by Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young in 1985 turns 25 this year and will commemorate the occasion with a stadium concert in Milwaukee also featuring Dave Matthews.  Farm Aid has raised more than $37 million for family farms. That’s a lot of seed money.

9) Lollapalooza (not ranked): The last of the big summer festivals takes place in Chicago this weekend with headliners including Soundgarden, Arcade Fire and Lady GaGa.  Like Coachella and Bonnaroo, despite a horrific summer touring season, Lollapalooza is on track for a lollapalooza of a successful festival—especially after releasing an extra 60,000 tickets several weeks ago.

10) “American Idol” (not ranked): Between the speculation over the new judges, the return of Nigel Lythgoe, and producer 19 Entertainment’s move from Sony Music to Universal Music Group, there’s been more “Idol” chatter this past week than the entire last season.

Music Power Rankings appear every Friday.  What do you think of this week's list?

Last week's rankings:

July 30



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Does Eminem continue his reign atop the Billboard 100?

Is it possible for Taylor Swift to come in at No. 1 next week?

Eminem may have fallen out of the top spot on the Billboard 200 album chart, but his reign at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 remains as “Love the Way You Lie” featuring Rihanna logs its third week in the pole position.

The song knocked Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” featuring Snoop Dogg out of the No. 1, but “Gurls” is hanging tough at No. 2. But the even better news for Perry is that “Teenage Dream,” the title track and second single from her Aug. 24 album, soars into the Top 10 after only two weeks. It leaps to No. 7 on the Hot 100, giving Perry two slots in the Top 10.

But she’s not the only one. Usher’s new single, “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” featuring Pitbull rises 12-9, while former chart topper “OMG” falls to No. 10, also giving the singer two tracks in the top 10.
So whom else should you be looking out for?  Maroon 5 looks to have a hit on its hands with “Misery,” the first single from its new album, while Ke$ha’s phenomenal year continues. Her latest song, “Take It Off,” rises  92-52 on the Hot 100, the largest leap this week on the chart.

The big news may come next week when Taylor Swift’s “Mine,” which was rush released to radio and iTunes after the track leaked on Wednesday. The track already soared to the top of the iTunes chart and Billboard pundits predict that a top 10 debut in the  Hot 100 next week is a certainty, with a No. 1 debut not totally out of reach.


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Kesha or Ke$ha Take It Off Music Video

Kesha, Ke$ha -- take your pick -- in the new video for "Take It Off."

Watch: Ke$ha's new video for 'Take It Off,' in which she remains surprisingly clothed

Tik Tok: Is the clock ticking on her career?

We’ve been traveling so we’re playing catch up, but we couldn’t let a new video from Ke$ha go unnoticed. As “Take It Off” mounts a major assault on the Billboard 100, the video for the tune hits the airwaves.

The Ke$ha that we’ve come to know and tolerate is in full effect. As with every of her party anthems, she’s packing: “Got a water bottle full of whiskey in my handbag,” she sings. Yep, that’s the surprise here: instead of doing her usual Valley Girl talk singing, Ke$ha’s singing here and while her voice is fine, there is absolutely nothing remarkable about her voice at all.

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<p>Taylor Swift</p>

Taylor Swift

Credit: Peter Kramer/AP

Listen: Taylor Swift's new single, 'Mine'

Has she grown up or is it the same old puppy love?

Our little girl is growing up. “Mine,” the first single from Taylor Swift’s forthcoming album, “Speak Now,” leaked out today, leading her  label, Big Machine, to rush release the tune to radio today, a few weeks ahead of schedule.

The uptempo track is vintage Swift about romantic love, not too explicit—the most he does is put his arm around her, but there are lines that the 16-year-old Swift couldn’t have written that the now 20-year-old Swift can easily tackle including “there’s a drawer of my things at your place,” which would indicate that  she’s actually, gulp, spending the night with her beau.

On a more quotidian note, she sings, “We’ve got bills to pay,” which would indicate someone in their early 20s, out on their own for the first time.

The tune, which Swift wrote by herself instead of with a co-writer as she has previously, also takes a different perspective than her earlier songs in that she is in a romantic relationship looking back to the beginning of their time together.

Melodically, it’s stripped down enough for country, although pop will have no problem playing it either. There are also catchy, layered vocals at the end that sweeten the song’s appeal. Swift’s label, Big Machine, in an effort to make  country radio, which broke Swift, still feel like she belongs to them, serviced the song simultaneously to iTunes and to country radio, but not to other formats.

In addition to the gargantuan pressure Swift—or any artist—would feel to follow up such a huge album as “Fearless,” Swift has a double monkey on her back: she has to transition to an adult artist. It’s not quite the hurdle that a Disney artist like Miley Cyrus has to overcome, but Swift has written songs that reflect her peer group: teen girls—such as the girl in “Fifteen” who regrets losing her virginity or the non-cheerleader who yearns for the popular boy in “You Belong With Me.”

The challenge before her is to show growth and maturity as she moves into her 20s, while not ignoring or alienating the younger set. It’s not an issue her peers, such as Lady Antebellum’s Hilary Scott or Kellie Pickler face since they are a few years old, but, more importantly, have always approached romantic relationships in song as adults as opposed to someone in the first blushes of puppy love. If “Mine” is an indication, Swift looks to have crossed that bridge successfully.

Listen to "Mine" below. It's not the clearest version Swift sounds higher than normal, which we believe is due to the poor quality of the copy. We'll switch it to a clearer version when we can. What do you think of "Mine."




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Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood is arguably the last big star "American Idol" has launched.  In fact, she may be the biggest of them all.

Credit: AP Photo

More 'American Idol' changes: 19 Entertainment switches to Universal Music Group

Can the change turnaround the recent disappointment of 'Idol' winners on the charts?

American Idol” isn’t the only one making changes. As the talent show moves into season 10 with a new slate of judges, the program’s producer 19 Entertainment shifts from Sony Music Entertainment to Universal Music Group.

Sony inherited the 19 deal when it merged with BMG, which has had the partnership for nine years, according to Billboard.  A number of past “AI” contestants remain on Sony labels including Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Daughtry, Fantasia, David Cook, Adam Lambert, Kellie Pickler, Jordin Sparks and David Archuleta. Sony will also release albums this fall from Season 9’s winner, Lee DeWyze, and runner-up,  Crystal Bowersox.

Going forward, UMG will release the debut from the “AI” winner, as well as have rights to the other finalists. Contestants will come out through the Interscope/Geffen/A&M labels.

"We like delivering hits and new artists,” UMG co-CEO Lucian Grainge said in a statement issued by the label group. “UMG and ‘American Idol’ is the right combination at the right time. Pairing the renowned expertise of Simon [Fuller] and Jimmy [Iovine, IGA chairman] in developing and marketing musical talent creates a truly winning combination that will allow 'Idol's' artists to realize their fullest potential."

No reason for the shift was given, but sales for “Idol” contestants have fallen off considerably, with recent winners failing to achieve the heights of Clarkson or Underwood. Sony pop-oriented imprints such as J and Jive were great fits for many "Idols," plus Sony easily placed acts like Underwood through its Nashville divisions. it will be interesting to see if Universal shifts country-leaning 'Idols' to Mercury Nashville. In Geffen chairman, Ron Fair, who signed Christina Aguilera to RCA and then worked  with  Pussycat Dolls at IGA, the label has the perfect in-house producer for pure pop acts.

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Eminem has dominated album sales in 2010, but his reign at No. 1 is officially over.

Credit: AP Photo

Who pushes Eminem out of the top spot on the Billboard 200?

Where are Lady Gaga and Lady Antebellum?

Welcome to his  “Nightmare”:  Eminem’s reign at No. 1 comes to an end thanks for Avenged Sevenfold’s “Nightmare,” which pushed “Recovery” out of the top spot after five weeks on the Billboard 200.

It was a close race: “Nightmare” sold 163,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan, while “Recovery” moved 159,000 units.

“Nightmare” is the hard rock band’s first No. 1 album, according to Billboard, besting its previous chart high of No. 4 for its 2007 self-titled set.

It’s lonely at the top: “Nightmare” is the only title to debut in the top 10 this week, making it the first time since the week ending Feb. 28 that only one new album entered the chart in the first 10 slots.

Last week’s No. 2, Rick Ross’s “Teflon Don,” drops to No. 3, while Justin Bieber’s “My World 2.0” rises to  No. 4. Other titles making moves within th Top 10 includes Lady Antebellum’s  “Need You Now,” which moves up to No. 7 and Sheryl Crow’s “100 Miles from Memphis” falls five places to No. 8. Lady Gaga climbs one place to No. 9.

Total album sales for the week were 5.21 million units, down 13% with the comparable sales week in 2009. Year-to-date sales are down 12% from last year.

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<p>Kings of Leon fans won't have to wait long for the band's latest album.</p>

Kings of Leon fans won't have to wait long for the band's latest album.

Kings of Leon's 'Come Around Sundown' setting in stores on Oct. 19

Follow-up to 'Only by the Night' 'darker' than previous efforts

Kings of Leon will release “Come Around Sundown,” the band’s follow-up to the quadruple Grammy-winning “Only by the Night,” on Oct. 19.

The band began recording the set, helmed by “Night’s” producers Angelo Petraglia and Jacquire King, at New York’s Avatar Studios in February following a few years of solid touring.

“This was the first time we’d ever recorded in New York City,” the band’s drummer Nathan Followill told Hitfix’s Katie Hasty in May. “We thought we’d come out with a little more darker record,” Followill says, noting that the previous albums were laid down largely in Los Angeles, where there wasn’t as much “hustle and bustle.” http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/immaculate-noise/posts/kings-of-leon-almost-done-with-new-album

“Only by the Night” has sold more than 6 million copies worldwide and catapulted Kings of Leon into one of the top touring acts in the world.

Kings of Leon headline the Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival later this month as part of their ongoing tour that ends Sept. 23.

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<p>Dave Matthews</p>

Dave Matthews

Credit: AP Photo

Dave Matthews Band, Willie Nelson, Neil Young marquee Farm Aid 25

Benefit takes play Oct. 2 in Milwaukee

Farm Aid will commemorate its 25th anniversary Oct. 2 in Milwaukee with all three founders, Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young, in attendance.

The concert will take place at Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers and will also include Dave Matthews Band. A number of other acts will also be added. Tickets go on sale this Friday,  Aug. 6, to Farm Aid Members and Aug. 14 to the general public. Prices range from $97.50-$39.50. The concert will air on DirecTV.

Farm Aid’s first benefit concert took place in Champaign, Ill., in 1985 as a way to help the family farmers, who were being pushed out by corporate farmers. Over the last quarter century, the annual concerts have raised more than $37 million to support  organizations such as the Good Food Movement.

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<p>Katy Perry</p>

Katy Perry

Credit: AP Photo

Commentary: Did MTV get it right with the VMA nominations? We're not so sure

Justin, Rihanna and Katy deserved better -- but what of Lady Gaga

Unlike last year when she had major competition from Beyonce, in many ways Lady GaGa has the field to herself for this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, which air Sept. 12.

Click here for the complete list of nominations.

Even before the first Moon Man is handed out, Lady GaGa has already made the record books, landing 13 nods, more than any other artist in history. She breaks a record set by Missy Elliott in 2001.

Is she deserving?  We say a resounding yes. No artist since Madonna has put so much effort and thought into videos. Lady GaGa has almost singlehandedly revived the moribund genre. Not every video is a winner—we’re not a fan of “Alejandro”—but there is no doubt that both “Bad Romance” and “Telephone” (with Beyonce) deserve their slots in the Video of the Year category.
Here are a few areas that left us scratching our heads:

Katy Perry: Perry’s “California Gurls,” a veritable love fest to the game “Candyland,” is fun and not predictable in any way. Why the shut out in video of the year? Yes, the clip got plenty of other slots and Florence + the Machine’s “Dog Days are Over” clip is fun, but we would have given that slot to “Gurls” or to MGMT’s truly wacky “Flash Delirium.”

Justin Bieber: Bieber’s clip for “Baby” just replaced Lady GaGa for the most viewed video ever at YouTube with something like 245 million views and that doesn’t even get him a best pop video, best collaboration (with Ludacris) or best male video? Sure, his videos are not the most exhilarating or creative—and, in some ways, we understand his not getting a ton of nominations, but slotting him only in best new artist seems a bit of a slap.

Rihanna: Just like Britney fans cried foul last year when they felt their pop princess got short shrift (although she received seven nominations), this year Rihanna really got left out of the party. “Rude Boy” got a nod for best editing, but that’s it. Really? We know she hasn’t had great radio success with “Rated R,” but surely “Rude Boy” deserved a nod for best female video or the daring “Rock Star,” for the Slash imitation alone.

Big Boi: No “Shutterbugg?” No nothing? How did that happen?
Janelle Monae: what does she have to do to get the attention she deserves?  “Tightrope” is nominated for best choreography, which is definitely should be, the clip should also be up for best collaboration, best female (unless Big Boi’s participation knocks her out of that) and even for video of the year.

B.o.B.: He got more than his fair share of video nods, which makes it all the more strange that he got left out of the best new artist competition—he’s clearly the most nominated of all the newcomers this year.

Who do you feel got slighted?

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<p>Soundgarden is back. &nbsp;Sort of.</p>

Soundgarden is back.  Sort of.

Soundgarden set to release retrospective 'Telephantasm' on Sept. 28

Compilation includes previously unreleased tunes

It’s not the album of all new material that fans have been clamoring for, but it will do. Today, Soundgarden announced that it will release “Telephantasm” on Sept. 28.

The retrospective includes tunes from all previous Soundgarden releases, as well as “Black Rain,” a previously unreleased track from the “Badmotorfinger” era.

Additionally, the group will put out its first DVD, but gave no details on what that will include other than “never before-seen videos.”

Soundgarden, which reunited earlier this year, headlines Lollapalooza which begins on Aug. 8.


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