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Music Industry Seeks Comeback in 2002

Sales: The pressure is on after CD purchases fell for the first time in a decade. Springsteen, Guns N' Roses albums could be among new releases.

January 05, 2002|GLENN GAMBOA | NEWSDAY

For the music industry, 2001 was "The Year of the Chicken."

It was the year they came home to roost in the $40-billion industry, leading to the first CD sales drop in a decade.

It was the year when counting them before they hatched--Michael Jackson's $30-million "Invincible" and Mariah Carey's $10-million-plus "Glitter," to name a couple--left lots of folks with egg on their faces.

It was also the year when most record companies played it safe with promoting new talent, leading to a year that minted no new major stars other than Alicia Keys (championed by master insider-turned-renegade Clive Davis at J Records).

Big names don't always yield big sales anymore. Big buzz doesn't always work either--ask Shelby Lynne and Macy Gray. Four of the Big Five--BMG, EMI, Warner and Sony--reported lower earnings last year, with only Universal continuing its growth spurt.

All this leads to big pressure in 2002, as the industry tries to rebuild the coop with help from a brood of superstars and newcomers.

The 2002 most-anticipated lineup of CD releases includes:

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, album title and release date to be announced. The songs have been dribbling out, one amazing tune after another. "American Skin (41 Shots)" finally showed up on the live album. "My City of Ruins" arrived on "America: A Tribute to Heroes." The band has already knocked out demo versions of the songs "Code of Silence" and "Further on Up the Road." Reports have the gang heading into the studio early this year, with hopes that the new album may arrive in time for Thanksgiving.

However, there have been false starts before for the first Springsteen studio album since 1995's "The Ghost of Tom Joad."

Guns N' Roses, "Chinese Democracy" (Interscope/Geffen), release date TBA. The long-awaited comeback by Axl Rose and new hired guns was really, really supposed to come out last year. First, April. Next, June. Then, um, not. It may finally surface this year, with songs that lean (depending on whom you ask) toward the more eclectic rocking of guitarists Buckethead and ex-Nine Inch Nail Robin Finck or to the classic "Appetite for Destruction"-era sound.

With a pack of rockers dominating the charts, timing may never be better for Rose. That is, of course, unless he decides to wait until rock dies again and comes back to life.

N.E.R.D., "In Search Of ... " (Virgin), out Feb. 12. The Neptunes--recording here as N.E.R.D.--are hot. The production team has helmed hits for everyone from Mystikal and Jay-Z to Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys. And now the group hopes to follow its pals up the charts with this album. The first single, "Lapdance," featuring remixes by Trent Reznor and Paul Oakenfold, is a hard-hitting mix of industrial rock and hip-hop that could be this year's genre-busting "Get Ur Freak On." It's practically a sure hit, with many more to come on the groovy yet experimental album, including the uplifting "Things Are Getting Better" and the raucous "Rock Star (Poser)."

Nine Inch Nails, title and release date TBA. Reznor and pals will release "Live: And All That Could Have Been," a collection culled from "The Fragile" tour, on Jan. 22. However, there is even more interest in the next NIN studio album, which Reznor has described in recent interviews as "pretty primitive, stripped-down, minimalist, brutal music," a throwback to his breakthrough albums, "Pretty Hate Machine" and "The Downward Spiral." Reports say the new album could arrive in late fall.

Ryan Adams, title and release date TBA. Yeah, people are just catching on to the singer-songwriter's great "Gold" album now that his video for "New York, New York" has been discovered.

But the prolific 26-year-old songwriter isn't wasting time. He's already finished a new solo album of alt-country heartbreak dubbed "48 Hours," some of which has already worked its way into his live show. However, that release won't come out until after his big rock record is released, probably under the name the Pinkhearts, to stem the tide of Ryan releases.

Meanwhile, the industry also has high hopes in 2002 for a boxed set from the Rolling Stones celebrating the band's 40th anniversary, David Bowie's debut for his new ISO label and the solo debut from TLC's Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, dubbed "Supernova."

And music fans are waiting for the follow-ups to a number of breakthrough albums from Weezer, whose eponymous album put it back on the map; Wilco, which will finally release the praised "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" in April after freeing itself from label politics; Coldplay, which is still releasing tracks from the excellent "Parachutes" album; Joseph Arthur, who already has delivered the excellent "I Donated Myself to the Mexican Army" as a sneak peek at what to expect from his follow-up to the fantastic "Come to Where I'm From" album; and the Twilight Singers, the laid-back electronic blues outfit that is Greg Dulli's sole outlet now that the Afghan Whigs have disbanded. And of course there's Moby.

Sounds like a pretty good year on paper. Let's hope the CDs sound just as good.

*

Glenn Gamboa is a reporter at Newsday, a Tribune Co. newspaper.

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