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Can Billy Ray Cyrus Elude the Sophomore Jinx?

May 16, 1993|Dennis Hunt

It's showdown time for Billy Ray Cyrus.

Mr. Achy Breaky Heart's follow-up to his blockbuster debut is due from Mercury Records on June 22--and bets are already being taken on whether it'll establish him as a legitimate country force or simply as the Vanilla Ice of country music.

"That Vanilla Ice analogy is about right," said Lee Logan, program director of San Francisco's country-oriented KNEW-AM and KSAN-FM, referring to how the celebrated rapper's career melted with the failure of his second album.

"Cyrus' first album was mediocre," Logan says. "He needs stronger material. The first single from the new album has to come out smoking. If not, the whole Billy Ray Express could be derailed."

Luke Lewis, president of Mercury's Nashville division, acknowledges the doubts surrounding the new album, which will be titled, optimistically, "It Won't Be the Last." "People are asking, 'Is he a one-hit wonder or a legitimate star?' "

But Lewis is confident that the album is strong enough to overcome the skepticism and take Cyrus to a new level.

That confidence is why the label is releasing the new album rather than postpone a showdown and simply keep milking the debut, "Some Gave All," which is still No. 2 on the country charts.

Lewis says a new album is important to "erase some of those negative attitudes" and because Cyrus, who is constantly touring, needs new material to freshen his live shows. "You can only tour with the same show for so long."

And what about retail?

Arnie Bernstein, president of the Musicland chain's music stores division, expects there'll be a large demand for the record, though possibly not as much as for the debut. "When you have a phenom with a big-hit first record some drop-off is likely on the follow-up," he says. "We're not going to buy it like a clear megahit, like a Garth Brooks album, but we'll buy it strong."

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