We”re in Nashville, so we”re feeling a little bit country and not so rock and roll this week. In fact, our first two slots go to country superstars: one veteran and one relative newcomer. Billboard named George Strait the top country artist of the past 25 years this week based on chart performance. The beauty of Strait is that he has just gone about his business for the past 30 years. There”s nothing flashy about him, he stands like a statue in concert, he gives virtually no interviews and there”s never even a hint of a scandal about him. He just consistently records great songs.
He”s never come near crossing over into any other formats, so unless you listen to country radio, it”s possible you”ve never heard a George Strait song. But just so you know, Strait has close to 60 No. 1s, that”s more than any other artist in history, including the Beatles.
We”re also saluting the power of Carrie Underwood. While she and Kelly Clarkson have been the most successful “American Idol” veterans, she continues to soar while Clarkson has somewhat plateaued. Wednesday night (June 9), she snagged two awards at the CMT Music Awards, including video of the year. This comes on top of her back-to-back entertainer of the year awards at the ACM Awards in May, making her the only female to win that honor twice. We barely knew who she was five years ago and now she”s at the top of the country music pantheon.
This week’s complete music power rankings:
1. George Strait (not ranked last week): Billboard names him the top country artist of the past 25 years, coming in ahead of the likes of Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire and Alan Jackson. Hey, he”s not called King George for nothing.
2. Carrie Underwood (not ranked): She snares two trophies at the CMT Music Awards two months after being the only woman to capture the ACM”s entertainer of the year twice. We”d question if Taylor Swift”s light may be dimming a little after she left both the ACMs and CMT Music Awards empty handed, but that would be crazy since she drew 57,000 fans to her “Fearless” tour closer at Boston”s Gillette Stadium earlier this week.
3. Katy Perry (not ranked): “California Gurls” speeds to the top of the Billboard 100 in only four weeks. It”s the hands-down anthem of the summer and may be the biggest hit of Perry”s career so far. The song is Capitol Records” quickest chart topper in 43 years, matching the four weeks it took for Bobbie Gentry”s “Ode to Billy Joe” to reach the summit in 1967.
4. Eminem (No. 4 last week): Once again, his new album has leaked. That”s the bad news. The good news is everyone who hears “Recovery” can”t believe how great it is. We”ve been raving about the three tracks we”ve heard, including the tremendously powerful “Love the Way You Lie” featuring Rihanna, which takes on an abusive relationship. Maybe we can pretend that little “Relapse” never happened.
5. Pixies, Hall & Oates, Korn and Backstreet Boys (not ranked): Here”s a quartet you”re never likely to see listed together again. The Pixies pull their show in Israel following the country”s murderous actions against the flotilla bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza, while Hall & Oates become the latest act to boycott Arizona over its new immigration policy and Korn and BSB call for a boycott of BP. Regardless of whether you agree with their viewpoint, we applaud that they are letting their consciences, not their pocketbooks, be their guide. Jiminy Cricket would be proud.
6. Jay- Z (not ranked): Is there nothing he can”t do? This week he launched a joint venture with the U.K.”s Tinchy Stryder (how great a name is that?) Takeover Roc Nation will handle management, merchandise and music. Last year, Hova formed StarRoc with hot production duo StarGate. In other Jay-Z news, Lil Kim has signed with his Roc Nation imprint.
7. Bonnaroo: (not ranked)The latest iteration of the Manchester, Tenn. Multi-act festival kicked off June 10 with a line-up that includes Dave Matthews Band, Jay-Z, Kings of Leon and Stevie Wonder. In a summer full of bad concert news, including Christina Aguilera and U2″s tour postponements and soft ticket sales, Bonnaroo stands like a shining beacon of hope. Remember to hydrate!
8. Digital sales (not ranked): We admit we”re grasping for straws here, but after the incredibly dismal news that album sales hit an all-time low last week, came news from Nielsen SoundScan that year-to-date digital downloads were up 0.2% over the same period last year. Even better, digital album scans are up 13.8 % over the same time frame last year. Survival is the new success. We”ll take it.
9. Jack Johnson (not ranked): Speaking of digital sales, Johnson”s latest, “To the Sea,” enters the Billboard 200 at No. 1 with nearly half of the 234,000 copies coming from digital sales. It”s surfer boy”s third No. 1.
10. Elvis Presley (not ranked): Okay, we”re having a little fun here, but this week came the news that two great American institutions are coming together: Elvis Presley and Mr. Potato Head. The Elvis estate inked a deal with Hasbro and PPW Toys , with the first version-an Elvis spud clad in a white jumpsuit-out in time for Dead Elvis Week in August. More than 30 years after his death, the King earns more money posthumously than any other celebrity. Can an Elvis Chia Pet be far behind?
What do you think?
Music Power Rankings appear every Friday in The Beat Goes On on HitFix.