Pop Superstars Bum-Rush Retail! Rihanna, Nicki, Bruno, Alicia, Ke$ha, Kid Rock, Zep, and One Direction All Fit to Be Wrapped
From the flood of superstar releases hitting stores in late November and early December, you'd almost imagine there's still a viable industry devoted to the making and selling of audio recordings geared toward young people. Yes, Virginia, there is a music business!
The two weeks leading up to Black Friday have, as always, been the busiest of the year for new albums. Among the stars who joined the competitive fray with releases just in the Nov. 13-20 time frame: One Direction, Phillip Phillips, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Kid Rock, Pitbull, Christina Aguilera, Susan Boyle, Kelly Clarkson, Keyshia Cole, Coldplay, AC/DC, Green Day, Soundgarden, Lana Del Rey, and, just for true old time's sake, Led Zeppelin. But the makeup of the new release bins won't sit unaltered in the weeks that follow Black Friday. Although things won't be quite as busy in early December, music fans can still look forward to post-Thanksgiving product from Alicia Keys, Ke$ha, Bruno Mars, T.I., The-Dream, Wiz Khalifa, Big Boi, and hot country newcomers Florida Georgia Line.
Here's our breakdown of some of the season's freshest releases, along with some initial critical and sales reactions to those albums that are already out:
The group's sophomore release just debuted with 540,000 copies, the third-best opening of 2012, trailing only Taylor Swift (who, coincidentally, is said to be dating Harry Styles… again) and Mumford & Sons. They are, as Yahoo! Music charts columnist Paul Grein noted, "the first boy band in chart history to land two #1 albums in a calendar year." How is it? Rolling Stone's three-star review sees the One Direction glass as half-full: "Their second album rivals the best of Backstreet and 'N Sync when the material pumps…But when it doesn't (i.e., most of the ballads), a certain amount of douchiness creeps in." Entertainment Weekly's C-grade review thought the eight-month wait between releases could have been a bit longer: "Catchy new tracks 'Kiss You' and 'Heart Attack' would've fit right in on March's Up All Night. But the rush shows: Most of Take Me Home is filler with barely enough zip to keep the kids up past dinner."
The dirty sales secret is that Rihanna has always been able to move a lot more singles than album units. But that may change this time, with her seventh album (and fourth November album release in a row). After the first day of sales, Hits estimates that this one will debut with around 250,000 copies, far, far more than she's ever managed in an opening frame to date. So all the seemingly bad publicity generated by her seven-city 777 plane tour obviously had no dampening effect on sales, even if it does cause a few journalists to boycott the album in sympathy with their suffering compatriots on the jet from hell. How is it? Naturally, her defensive duet with Chris Brown has been as effective at drawing critical barbs as it has been as garnering massive amounts of publicity. Said the A.V. Club, "Rihanna's much-discussed duet with Brown, 'Nobody's Business,' forms the rotten core of Unapologetic, a fiery pop album that's unfortunately coated in the icky residue of unearned defiance that has marked Brown's recent output." The Los Angeles Times' two-star review said, "It's a little sickening, because for the first time since the incident, her addressing the complicated issue feels not like a defense of love but a marketing maneuver, a way of turning a negative into a positive." But the same review approvingly notes the album's move further into dubstep territory and contends that "musically, Rihanna has evolved into one of the more forward-thinking pop divas."