November 23rd: A Fight To The Death

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November promises to be the most musically heavy and aurally pleasing month of the year. With new albums by industry heavyweights such as John Mayer, Norah Jones, Leona Lewis, OneRepublic, Janet Jackson, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Bon Jovi, The Killers, Weezer, Dashboard Confessional, and Tori Amos, it seems as though every major record label will be handing out bonus checks with all the money they’ll be making. While most of these records are spread out across various release dates throughout the month, there is one date where the most likely front runners of who will be crowned the Billboard chart champion of 2009 will all be releasing their heavily anticipated new releases: November 23rd.

Earlier this year, we saw a race to the finish when divas Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and Madonna all released new albums in September. Reminiscent to the infamous Kanye West/50 Cent album release day battle of a few years ago, fans everywhere held their breaths to see which of these three female powerhouses would reign above the other two on the charts. Well, apparently this marketing gimmick is one the music industry is trying to explore further, as on November 23rd, an even more intense battle will be fought. With new releases by pop icons Britney Spears, Lady GaGa, Rihanna, and Shakira, and the debut album of crowd pleasing pop star/glam rocker Adam Lambert, who will reign the new victor of the mainstream charts?

Britney Spears, The Singles Collection

In the past decade, Britney Spears has become the definitive symbol of the word “superstar.” Her music redefined what pop music was, and still to this day, her successors cite her as a major influence they aspire to be ranked on par with. After Britney’s personal life took a major downfall and she became more known for her tabloid worthy antics than her controversial performances and sexy lyrics, she pulled herself back together and had one of the greatest comebacks in music history with her 2008 release Circus.

Not many other artists can say that they’ve had five albums debut at the #1 spot of the Billboard Top 100 albums chart, had twenty-three Top 40 hits, sold out stadium arena concerts and sold over 63 million albums worldwide. Now, celebrating her 10 year anniversary as the name and voice behind a pop dynasty, Britney is releasing The Singles Collection, a collection of her greatest and legendary hits, including her brand new #1 single, “3.”

With all of the tracks digitally re-mastered for the crispest quality sound, fans will be able to play all of Britney’s chart topping hits back to back. Ranging from the opening lines of “… Baby One More Time” to the sultry dance number “Toxic,” to the deliciously addictive chorus of “Womanizer,” this collection of songs not only is a catalog of the best of Britney’s career, but is a culmination of tracks that show the evolution of pop music in the past decade. Starting with bubble gum cheeriness and ending with techno infused dance numbers, the songs Spears provides us are a primary source of how our tastes, as a music consuming society, have morphed from one end of the pop spectrum to the other. If history really does repeat itself, nobody has a chance against the phenomenon that is Britney Spears.

Lady GaGa, The Fame Monster

After the release of her debut album The Fame, Lady GaGa skyrocketed from a new up-and-coming New York singer to one of the biggest names in the industry. In the past year, GaGa has made Billboard chart history by being the only artist to ever have four consecutive #1 singles from their debut album.

The Fame Monster is a re-release of her epic pop extravaganza debut, but featuring eight new and additional tracks. With the lead single “Bad Romance” debuting at #9 on the charts and making it her fifth Top 10 track, it is safe to predict that another #1 song is in the very near future for our favorite fashionista pop-star. After hearing the Latin-infused “Alejandro” and dark-electronica track “Dance In The Dark,” two newly leaked songs from the album, it is clear that in the past year GaGa has evolved her already signature sound and is quickly growing into “the Madonna of our generation,” as Kanye West labeled her.

Rihanna, Rated R

At only 21-years-old, Barbados native Rihanna returns with her first new studio release since her 2007 smash Good Girl Gone Bad, which contained the chart topping, Grammy Award winning hit “Umbrella,” as well as #1 singles “Take A Bow,” “Disturbia,” and Top 10 hits “Shut Up And Drive,” “Hate That I Love You,” and “Don’t Stop The Music.” According to her label, the album “spent 98 total weeks on the Soundscan chart, and earned cumulative sales of more than 36-times platinum in at least 20 territories around the world.”

With an album like that, one would think a follow up would be a bonafide shoe-in for success. However, everything leading up to the release of Rated R is signaling it to be very meek in comparison to its predecessor. Lead single “Russian Roulette” was panned by critics, with most citing it as dull, boring, forgettable, and not worthy of triggering a comeback. In response, it is rumored that Rihanna’s label was responsible for leaking two other tracks from the album, “Wait Your Turn” and “Hard.” Both tracks were cited by bloggers and message boards as superior to “Russian Roulette,” yet still incredibly lackluster in comparison to anything off of Good Girl Gone Bad. Therefore, despite heavy promotion and a loyal fan base, the lukewarm reception of her new material seems to ensure that although she’ll secure a spot in the top five, she will not be polishing her trophy amongst the competition facing the release of Rated R.

Shakira, She Wolf

While one cannot argue that Shakira is not an incredibly talented performer with jaw-dropping dance skill, she has never seemed to be much of a vocalist. Despite the fact that her singing sounds like the slaughtering of a constipated goat, for some reason, Forbes Magazine has declared her the 4th richest woman in the music industry – behind Madonna, Barbra Streisand, and Celine Dion.

After being crowned the highest-selling Colombian artist of all time by having sold more than 50 million albums worldwide, Shakira’s newest release She Wolf does not have the same driving force behind it as have her older efforts. While previous songs like “Hips Don’t Lie,” “Whenever, Wherever,” and “La Tortura” remained on the top of the charts gaining hype for their respective albums, lead single “She Wolf” has failed to have much impact. Currently, it holds the #46 spot on the iTunes Top 100 charts, proving the track does not have much gusto to support it.

When She Wolf was released in the U.K. last month, it failed to bode well in comparison to her last albums. Debuting at #4, it is apparent that the rest of the world is beginning to realize that even though she can put on a good show, Shakira does not have the capability to produce good music.

The American release of the album will feature a song not included on the U.K. release. The Timbaland produced track, “Give It Up To Me” features rapper Lil’ Wayne, and is a boring, repetitive upbeat “dance” song that sounds like it was scrapped from Timbaland’s first compilation album, Shock Value. Also on the American release will be the Kid Cudi remix of second single “Did It Again.” While this remix takes a bland song and makes it remotely listenable, it still doesn’t exude enough caliber or force to have Shakira reclaim her spot at the top of the charts. While for some reason this woman still has fans which will ensure her a successful first week of release, there is no plausible way that She Wolf will eat up its competition.

Adam Lambert, For Your Entertainment

Although he was only the runner-up of this past season of American Idol, Adam Lambert has one of the most devoted fan bases since the creation of the show. Just because he didn’t win the show, doesn’t mean he won’t win in long term revenue sales. Take the mega successful former losing contestants Chris Daughtry, Jennifer Hudson, and Clay Aiken, for instance. Does anybody even remember who won the seasons they were on? Better yet, does anyone even care?

While winner Kris Allen’s first single “Live Like We’re Dying” has gone rather unnoticed, Lambert’s debut “For Your Entertainment” has slowly but steadily been creating quite an impact since its release last week. After unveiling the ultra campy cover art for his album and appearing in controversial photo shoots that landed him on the covers of Details and Rolling Stone magazines, Lambert has gained far more press than Allen. Additionally, he will be sharing the stage with Lady GaGa and fellow Idol alums Kelly Clarkson, Daughtry, and Carrie Underwood, when he performs at the American Music Awards on November 22nd.

The production team behind Lambert’s debut has all the makings of a smash success. The Sam Sparro-inspired noir electronica fused mashing of pop and glam-rock is certainly not the typical type of release one would initially expect from the debut of an Idol contestant. Enlisting the help of various titans of the industry, Lambert’s debut promises to be thoroughly satisfying. Amongst many of the album credits, Lady GaGa penned the track “Fever,” Christina Aguilera’s hit-making songwriter Linda Perry wrote “A Loaded Smile,” rock band Muse contributed the track “Soaked,” and Pink wrote “Whataya Want From Me” with Max Martin, the man behind Britney Spears’ #1 hits. In addition, Ryan Tedder, the lead singer of OneRepublic who is also responsible for writing huge hits for Leona Lewis (“Bleeding Love”), Beyonce (“Halo”), and Kelly Clarkson (“Already Gone,”), contributes the track “Sleepwalker.” With a team of experienced and profitable producers and songwriters like this, Lambert’s album is one of the most hotly anticipated albums of the year, strongly threatening his competing musical veterans for the chance for his debut to hit #1.

So which of these five musical superstars will come out on top? Will nostalgia of a decade of pop hits give Britney her sixth #1 album? Or will GaGa prove that she is indeed dethroning Britney as the princess of pop? Will the success of Rihanna’s previous efforts cover up the critical backlash of her new material to give her another chart topper? Will the allure of Shakira’s mind blowing performances mask the fact that she doesn’t have anything else going for her? Or will the boy from American Idol trump over all of his female competition and reign as the victor? Only time will tell.

Personally? My money’s on GaGa. While Britney should gain the coveted #1 spot as an homage to everything she has done for pop music, the lack of new material on her release won’t have people rushing to CD stores to purchase music they most likely already own. Instead, the appeal lies with GaGa, whose consistent dominance of the charts since her arrival on the scene last year secure her as the most likely winning candidate. However, despite who receives the highest honor in this battle to the top, one thing is for sure: the intense desire for entertainment and music never dies – even in a crumbling economy.