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In the Crowded Holiday Derby, There Are a Few Sure Things

September 17, 2000|STEVE HOCHMAN

Got Nov. 21 reserved for Thanksgiving preparations?

If you have a teenage girl, you may have to take time out to drive her to the mall to buy the Backstreet Boys' new album.

What may be at stake is the all-time first-week sales crown held by rival boys 'N Sync, who shattered the Backstreets' old record of 1.2 million last spring with an astounding 2.4 million copies sold of "No Strings Attached."

"I think 'N Sync's record will probably stand for the foreseeable future, although if anything right now had a chance to beat it, Backstreet Boys could certainly be it," says Bob Bell, new-release buyer for the Wherehouse stores, the nation's largest music retail chain. "Retail will be better prepared for this record [than Backstreet Boys' last one] and even better than with 'N Sync. And it is the holidays, which means more traffic in the stores."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday September 24, 2000 Home Edition Calendar Page 2 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 20 words Type of Material: Correction
Album release--The Sept. 17 Pop Eye column incorrectly referred to Xzibit's upcoming album as his debut. The release will be his third album.

James Baker, music director of adult pop radio station KBIG-FM (104.3), is hearing conservative projections of 1.1 million for the album's first week, although he expects the predictions to grow as the release date approaches. However, for his older audience largely made up of thirtysomething females--who have embraced the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync along with their teen counterparts--there is a bit of a burnout factor.

"We're kind of saturated with the boy bands and 'N Sync has a new song we're considering playing," Baker says. "So it will be interesting."

In any case, the Backstreet Boys are the odds-on favorite for top sales through the Christmas season, according to a panel of radio programmers and retailers surveyed by Pop Eye. Overall, these professionals see a very strong field, with new releases from such longtime superstar acts as Madonna and U2, more recent breakthroughs including Ricky Martin, Limp Bizkit and the Wallflowers, and such new figures as rapper Xzibit coming.

We used their predictions to handicap the top pop music races in the major genres and radio formats, with some clear favorites--especially those whose appeal crosses age demographic lines--and a few interesting dark horses. And that's not even considering the Beatles' hits collection:

Pop

Win--Backstreet Boys.

Place--Madonna's "Music" (due Tuesday). There's a summer feeling to the dance-floor, good-times bounce of the title single. But to the panelists, any season can be Madonna's season, as her old audience grows with her and she seems eternally able to appeal to a new crop of kids as well.

Show--Ricky Martin's untitled album (Nov. 14). The general perception is that he has to prove he has staying power. But he has a huge audience ready to give him a chance.

Dark horse--98 Degrees' "Revelation" (Sept. 26). Could be the foursome's time to step up to the Backstreet and 'N Sync level.

Rock

Win--U2's "All That I Can Leave Behind" (Oct. 31). The single "Beautiful Day" is perking up a lot of ears and making many believe the band can recapture the commercial luster that tarnished a bit with 1997's "Pop." It's even got a place among the younger, harder-edged acts on KROQ-FM (106.7). "It sounds amazing on the air," says the station's music director, Lisa Worden. "It's the best song they've done in years."

Place--The Wallflowers' "Breach" (Oct. 10). With Jakob Dylan having come to grips with his lineage and his own stardom, Nicole Sandler, program director of the now Internet-based Channel 103.1 (http://www.worldclassrock.com), picks this, U2's album and Joan Osborne's "Righteous Love" as the most eagerly awaited releases for her adult alternative audience.

Show--Everlast's "Eat at Whitey's" (Oct. 17). "This could be a multi-format smash," says Bell. "It appeals to alternative, hip-hop and the new Santana audience thanks to their collaboration."

Dark horse--Radiohead's "Kid A" (Oct. 3). The English band's adventurous textures and Thom Yorke's inward-looking lyrics have earned a loyal following, but can make a tough fit on current radio formats.

Alternative Rock

Win--Limp Bizkit's "Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water" (Oct. 17). "We're already playing two singles," says Worden of the latest from the band whose rap-rock hybrid, though dismissed as lunkheaded by many, clearly has its finger on the pulse of wazzup in youth culture.

Show--Green Day's "Warning" (Oct. 3). The acoustic, almost sentimental "Time of Our Lives" from 1997's "Nimrod" signaled new maturity and became a ubiquitous hit. Worden believes the new album's balance of growth and rock commitment will be no less popular, at least with her rock audience.

Place--The Offspring's album, still untitled (Nov. 14). The Orange County band has turned into a juggernaut with its youth anthems and anti-anthems.

Dark horse--Marilyn Manson's "Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death)" (Nov. 14). This might seem a long shot after the sluggish showing of 1998's "Mechanical Animals." But Worden ranks this right alongside Limp Bizkit and Green Day as creating the biggest excitement at the station, with Manson returning to dark, hard-edged Goth rock.

Hip-Hop

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