MUSIC BUSINESS Rap rocks, but country cries

Not even Cold Play can rescue this year from the lack-of-sales blues.
Get ready for a new round of boo-hoos in the music business.
While last week the industry traded high-fives over the results of its Super Tuesday/Coldplay blowout, it has reason to weep over its weak cumulative sales so far this year.
Not only are the overall year-to-date numbers down 7 percent from 2004, but a direct comparison between the 10 top-selling albums of '04 and '05 at the June cutoff reveals an even more dramatic drop.
The No. 10-selling CD at the halfway mark last year -- Twista's "Kamikaze" -- would qualify as No. 5 by this year's depressed standards. It sold nearly 500,000 more copies than half the albums in this year's Top 10.
This year's troubles begin at the top. The biggest CD so far, 50 Cent's "Massacre," has moved 500,000 fewer platters than 2004's halfway king: Usher's "Confessions." (3.8 million versus 4.3 million). This, even though 50 has had three more weeks on the market.
Nothing like Norah
An even more damning gap is clear when you compare the No. 2 CDs. Norah Jones' "Feels Like Home" had sold nearly 1 million copies more at this point last year than The Game's CD "Documentary" has so far in 2005 (3 million versus 2.04 mil).
Thankfully, the news is more cheerful in certain genres -- especially rap. The hyper-verbal form claims the two top slots this year, not to mention No. 10 (Eminem's "Encore"). At this point last year, rap CDs didn't rank any higher than No. 5 (Outkast's "Speakerboxx/The Love Below").
Rock is looking up, too. Green Day's 2004 release "American Idiot" has sold well enough to bag the No. 3 slot this year, while the Killers have nailed No. 7. And by year's end, the Coldplay CD will likely figure high, as well.
R & amp;B in '05 can't crow over something as stellar as Usher's blockbuster. But one of its big names, Mariah Carey, has enjoyed a major comeback. Her "Emancipation of Mimi" ranks at No. 4, with enough momentum to hold a high place through year's end. The genre has also launched a major new star: John Legend, whose debut, "Get Lifted," stands at No. 9.
By contrast, country should be crying in its beer. The genre's top-ranking CD has only inched to a tepid No. 15: Kenny (Mr. Renee Zellweger) Chesney's "Be As You Are," followed by Rascal Flatts' "Feels Like Today" at No. 16. Last year at this time, Chesney had an album that got to No. 3.

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