Keith answers readers' questions on Xanadu, Grammys, best albums of 2007 and more!

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. Submit your burning music questions to Keith Caulfield at askbb@billboard.com.

CAST AWAY

Keith,

I don't understand how the Original Broadway Cast Album of "Xanadu" was able to chart two weeks ago when according to everything I see, the album is not being released until January.

The show was a ton of fun and includes a few songs that pre-date the movie (such as "Have You Never Been Mellow" and "Evil Woman"). I can't wait to receive my pre-ordered copy!

I wasn't sure who the appropriate person to ask about this was - so I write to you.

Michael Rosenthal
Staten Island, N.Y.

Hello Michael,

When the "Xanadu" album debuted on the Top Cast Albums chart (which hey, I happen to manage), it did so because it was exclusively available via the show's theater in New York as well as on it's official Web site.

It started with just over 1,000 units and debuted at No. 10 on the Cast Albums chart. Once the album becomes widely available in January, the album could see an increase in sales and jump back on the chart. (It fell off the week after it debuted.)



TOP TEN LIST

Hi Keith,

I got to see your list of best albums for 2007 and I really enjoy seeing some of my favorite British artists on it like Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Sugababes and Girls Aloud.

Regarding these last two acts, I know Sugababes are big in Europe, but they only had one minor hit in the U.S. back in 2004 and they won't be releasing "Change" in America. Mind you, the title track could be the perfect goodbye anthem for "American Idol" contestants being eliminated since it has very powerful lyrics that might suit the show.

In regards to Girls Aloud, are they releasing "Tangled Up" in the U.S.? I read a very positive review in Billboard and given the fact that so many British acts have charted in the last couple of years on The Billboard Hot 100, it would be a shame to pass on the opportunity to hear singles like "Sexy! No No No" and "Call the Shots" either on the radio or in some form of club mix.

However, my best bet for an English artist in the new year is Leona Lewis, but she should be generating a buzz of her own in the next few weeks.

Thank you and looking forward to reading your column in 2008.

Jaime Puentes

Hi Jaime,

To refresh everyone's memory, here are my top 10 albums of the year. You can read about all of our staff's favorite albums in Billboard's 2007: The Year in Music.

1. Girls Aloud, "Tangled Up" (Fascination/Polydor Ltd. [UK]). Amazing pure dance pop? Yes yes yes!
2. Britney Spears, "Blackout" (Jive)
3. Rihanna, "Good Girl Gone Bad" (SRP/Def Jam/IDJMG). Specifically the non-U.S. version that's packaged with what amounts to a complete "Good Girl Gone Bad" remix album. Awesome.
4. Sophie Ellis-Bextor, "Trip the Light Fantastic" (Universal/Fascination/Polydor Ltd. [UK])
5. Junior Senior, "Hey Hey My My Yo Yo" (Crunchy Frog)
6. Ultra NatŽ, "Grime Silk & Thunder" (Silver Label/Tommy Boy/BluFire)
7. Sugababes, "Change" (Universal/Island)
8. Hilary Duff, "Dignity" (Hollywood/Angel)
9. Amy Winehouse, "Back to Black" (Universal Republic)
10. Dannii Minogue, "Club Disco" (All Around the World). Kudos also to her "Unleashed" album (Rhino/Warner Music UK Ltd.). Both are archival collections representing some of Minogue's best work.

Back to your question, you're right about Leona Lewis. Her single "Bleeding Love" was released digitally on Dec. 18 and for the week ending Dec. 23 it sold nearly 6,000 downloads according to Nielsen SoundScan. The winner of the U.K. TV show "X Factor" seems like she has a great shot at success in the U.S.

Speaking of digital downloads, it's telling that all of Girls Aloud's albums (save for its newest, "Tangled Up") are available in the U.S. iTunes store. You can, however, purchase the new album's single "Sexy! No No No" song as an individual download.

Perhaps the Girls' label (Fascination/Polydor) has something up its sleeve?

I've heard rumblings about both Girls Aloud and Sugababes attempting a go at the U.S. in 2008. However, these propositions are always dicey. After all, look at superstars Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue. While the latter had success with her "Fever" album and a number of singles from it, her follow-up, "Body Language," tanked. Her latest effort, "X," is slated for release in the U.S. in the near year.

As for Williams, he's a megastar everywhere, except for the U.S. Sometimes, some music simply doesn't translate or get accepted in the U.S. on a grand scale, no matter how wonderful it is.



GRAMMY CHAT

Hello amigo,

Thanks for all of 2007's discussions.

I just wanted to take a few minutes to comment on your recent column regarding who and what might win at this year's Grammy awards. It's just a topic that I'm sometimes passionate about, so I thought I'd offer some opinions.

I totally agree that it might finally be Beyonce's year. "Irreplaceable" is one of the best -- if not the best -- singles she has ever made. It seems that they might finally honor her in the big category - after not winning for Destiny's Child's "Say My Name" and for her collaboration with buddy Jay-Z on "Crazy in Love" (my favorite by her).

Imagine the No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 single of 2007 also being the Record of the Year! As you know, it has been a while since a big hit record has actually won in that category. Lately, it seems as though the votes are split, then going to the surprise winner (e.g., good U2 records that only certain audiences have heard or a timely nod to Ray Charles and Norah Jones).

When "Hey Ya!" by OutKast didn't win, I forgave the Grammy folks because they honored the duo with Album of the Year. The Record of the Year winners as of late have been relatively lame in this decade, I feel. I know that they always mix things up, sharing the love with traditional types and extra-innovative artists, but the big categories all too often go by way of the mainstream (not that I'm complaining about John Legend's debut).

By the way, I can see any of the five contenders being album winners. I predict Kanye West. "Graduation" is not his best album, but they might reward him for his collective work. Plus, there might be some sympathy in light of his personal tragedy of 2007.

Regarding David Grohl and company, I'm not the biggest modern rock fan, but the Foo Fighters put out decent material on a regular basis. But it's time for a non-rock and non-country album to win, I think. Regarding their "The Pretender" tune, it's a decent recording and I understand why it was nominated.

Love "Rehab" and Amy Winehouse in general; haven't heard the entire album, however.

New artist: Winehouse probably. All are decent candidates. Let me tell you, Ledisi is a dynamite performer. Her current disc is somewhat restrained (her choice) in contrast to her first two. Ledisi is one of "our" true San Francisco bay area musicians, though she's originally from New Orleans. I caught her once when she opened for Nancy Wilson - the pop/jazz vocalist, not the Heart sister.

Wishing you a great SOULstice. I know that you're happy that Lady Madonna will be back in the forefront in 2008.

Joy,

Pablo Nelson
Berkeley, Calif.

Hi Pablo,

Thank you for the letter.

It'll be interesting to see how the Grammy Awards shake out this year.

Here's some food for thought. How is it that an artist is so amazing that they get a nomination for Best New Artist, yet, they have no other nominations in any of the 109 categories? We're talking to you Paramore and Taylor Swift.

(And no, that isn't a dig at either act. It's simply drawing attention to a quirk in the nomination process.)

Happy new year to you and to all of Ask Billboard's readers! I'll see you in 2008.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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