This is it, ladies and germs — the last batch of new releases you'll be able to buy leading up to all the gift-swappage a week from now. We know you've got some last-minute shopping to do, so without further delay, here's what's in store(s) this week:
Mary Christmas: Mary J. Blige doesn't really need to worry about competition — after all, every one of her studio releases has gone platinum, most more than once. One of her biggest successes was her last one, The Breakthrough, which has sold roughly 3 million copies since its December 20, 2005, release. Fitting to its handle, the follow-up, Growing Pains, bumped from mid- to late November, then settled on this December date — which, given her past success in the month, can't be a bad thing. But what's really up with the album name, especially given that we're talking about an artist who has been making music for more than 15 years? The normally proud Mary humbly told MTV News in October — without referring to herself in the third person! — that, "it's going to take probably a lifetime to get to a point in my life where I'm like, 'Oh, I'm perfect.' I don't think that will ever happen. So as long as I'm a human being and I'm not perfect, I'm able to say I'm having some growing pains." Look for production contributions from Ne-Yo, The-Dream and the Neptunes, as well as featured appearances by Usher ("Shake Down") and Ludacris ("Grown Woman"). Fans who preordered the singer's eighth studio disc got a download of her new single, "Just Fine," plus a bonus track "Mirror" (featuring Eve) and digital booklet.
Lupe on Ice?: Blige's smoking Pains is sure to cause Lupe Fiasco's "The Cool" some harm on the charts — the Chicago rapper's last effort, Lupe Fiasco's Food and Liquor, opened at #8 on the Billboard albums chart, while Blige's Breakthrough debuted at #1. Still, Lupe does have Snoop Dogg on his side — courtesy a guest appearance on the song "Hi-Definition" — and he's got a fresh Grammy nomination in his pocket too, as his tune "Daydreamin' " (featuring Jill Scott) is up for Best Urban/Alternative Performance. Referring to a conversation he had with esteemed Princeton University professor Cornel West, he told MTV News in September that, "cool things are what's destructive and what's got us down and depressed. And if you can make it hip to be square, you might really affect some actual social change in the world. So this is like my attempt, very blatant, over-attempt [at that], by naming the album The Cool." Fans who preordered the album were treated to a limited-edition autographed vinyl, if they went the digital-download route, or a free T-shirt if they bought the physical album ahead of time.
Cha-Chingy: While Mary and Lupe are, for the most part, hoping to carry their new albums on their own strengths, Chingy has armed himself with a battalion of fellow rappers to help him storm the charts. Ludacris, Rick Ross, Ice Cube, Trey Songz, Amerie, Bobby Valentino, Anthony Hamilton and producers Cool & Dre all lend their skills on Hate It or Love It. You read that right: Ludacris. Chingy recently made peace with Disturbing Tha Peace, declaring to MTV News over the summer that he was "back with DTP like I ain't never went nowhere. It's all good." His hopeful collabo with Kanye West, on the other hand, apparently didn't pan out.
Big Seller In The Making?: Despite Lupe and Chingy's new releases, Blige might actually face the stiffest competition from Jaheim and his fourth effort, The Making of a Man — after all, its predecessor, Ghetto Classics, topped the Billboard albums chart upon its release in 2006. Likely to give the New Jersey R&B singer a big boost are collaborations with R. Kelly, Babyface and Keyshia Cole; as well as covers of Luther Vandross and Bobby Womack classics. "Being a man means to walk like Christ," Jaheim said in a press release. "You have to want that change. If you sacrifice, He'll give you everything you are looking for. When you're taken through the storm, the only thing you can do is write about it ... get your pain off. So I'm going to take this story and change somebody's life." Jaheim's own life has seen some changes lately too — according to the release, he has "adopted a new lifestyle through healthy eating and exercise habits," bought a new house and "for the first time in his life, he finds himself truly in love."
Silver-Screen Sounds: "There Will Be Blood" and "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" have been getting lots of love as the film world delves deep into awards season, with both titles scooping up Golden Globe nominations last week. As it turns out, soundtracks for both sinister movies are hitting stores this week — via the same label, Nonesuch. One of the most unusual aspects of Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd" seems to be the singing performances by Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen, all of which are captured on the musical accompaniment. But Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood might grant the soundtrack for Paul Thomas Anderson's flick even greater commercial success, as he wrote the instrumental score. "I tried to write for the scenery and the story rather than specific 'themes' for characters," Greenwood said in a statement. "Only a couple of the parts were written for specific scenes — I was happier writing lots of music for the film/story."
Raw Appeal: Stores are crazy enough as it is, with all the holiday shopping going on — but they might get a little more violent this week as wrestling fans clothesline each other on their way to the cash registers, with copies of "WWE Raw" - Greatest Hits: The Music in their mitts. The disc teems with the theme songs for the Rock, John Cena, Chris Jericho and other beefcakes — and the project is nothing to scoff at, given that five WWE Music Group releases have debuted in the top 10 on the Billboard albums chart. Plus, Rick Rubin was involved in the project, oddly enough. "I've been a lifelong fan of WWE," he revealed in a statement.
Another Kiss: While we're on the subject of guys who like to dress up and wear makeup, Kiss are breaking out the last installment in their "Kissology" series this week. The massive, four-disc "Volume Three 1992-2000" is loaded with 10-plus hours of material from the rock titans, including a November 1992 show in Detroit; their 1995 "MTV Unplugged" performance and accompanying behind-the-scenes material; another Detroit gig, from '96; five songs as part of their 1996 VMA performance; a 1998 show at Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium; songs they performed at the '99 premiere of the movie "Detroit Rock City"; a 2000 show in New Jersey; and, for good measure, the famed Coventry 1973 gig in New York that marked their first show in makeup that was captured on camera. Talk about a never-ending Kiss.
A Shorter Tool: Unlike Kiss, Tool aren't taking the exhaustive approach with their new DVD. The band's long-awaited "Vicarious" disc has an extended cut of the video for the title track, crack commentary from comedian David Cross, a making-of featurette and some live clips.
Rivers' Deluge: Weezer wouldn't be a band without Rivers Cuomo, of course — for proof, look no further than Alone - The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo, a compilation of his demos that provided the foundation for the band's material. "By Christmas 1990, I had wheedled my mother, finally, into co-signing for a credit card and bought a Tascam 688 home-recording unit and began a steady stream of demo-making that has continued in various forms, on various machines and in various locations around the world until the present time and place, October 2007. In my home in Los Angeles, I make my demos on the Dell laptop computer which I am now writing," he wrote in the package's extensive liner notes. Among the 16 demos are "Buddy Holly," "Dude, We're Finally Landing" and "I Was Made For You."
Song Title of the Week:
"Go Go Gadget Flow" from Lupe Fiasco's "The Cool"
Album Cover of the Week:
Keller Williams' 12
You'll never guess how many releases the guitarist has put out over the course of his 20-plus-year career. We'll give you a clue: It's a number between 11 and 13 and has something to do with the title of his latest disc. For the innovative 12 — which Williams called his "hitless greatest hits" comp in a statement — he cherry-picked one song from each of his previous releases and chalked up one newly recorded track.
Doug Levitt's Diaries: Eastbound Edition
A guy decides to spend six weeks touring on a Greyhound Bus so he can get better acquainted with common folk and tell their stories. That's, in a nutshell, this singer/songwriter's Greyhound Diaries: Eastbound Edition project, which surfaced in the form of a series of videos on the Web starting December 10, and a four-song iTunes EP that came out Monday. Expect a related full-length album in the spring.
The Dig's Good Luck and Games
The New York band actually has this up on the group's Web site or MySpace page as a free download, but after Thursday, you'll have to resort to buying the release, which will also be available at CD Baby. The effort — which was produced by Pavement and Ramones collaborator Bryce Goggin — was preceded by the rock group's prior to LPs, Boston Rock 'N Roll and Quiet Parade. Dig it.
· Mary J. Blige - Growing Pains (Geffen) [Buy Now]
Read: "Mary J. Blige Says She's 'Just Fine' With Her New Album, Losing 'Umbrella' To Rihanna"
· Chingy - Hate It or Love It (Disturbing Tha Peace)[Buy Now]
· Kirk Franklin - The Fight of My Life (Gospocentric)
· Jonny Greenwood - "There Will Be Blood" soundtrack (Nonesuch)
· Jaheim - The Making of a Man (Atlantic/ Ghetto Hoodz)
· Lupe Fiasco - Lupe Fiasco's "The Cool" (Atlantic) [Buy Now]
Read: "Lupe Fiasco's Cool World: Tragedy Meets 'Mad Poppy Beats'"
· Various artists - "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" soundtrack (Nonesuch)
Notable Reissues and Archival Material:
· Rivers Cuomo - Alone - The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo (Geffen) [Buy Now]
· Bram Tchaikovsky - Strange Man, Changed Man (Hip-O-Select)
· Trisome 21 - 25 Years (limited-edition two-CD set; Alfa Matrix)
· Keller Williams - 12 (Sci Fidelity)
· Various artists - Def Jam Sessions, Vol. 01 (Def Jam)
· Various artists - "WWE Raw" - Greatest Hits: The Music (Columbia/ WWE Music Group)
· Chuck Berry - "Maybellene - Impact: Songs That Changed the World" (SRO Entertainment) [Buy Now]
· Vivian Campbell - "Lead Master Class" (Music Sales)
· Aretha Franklin - "Respect - Impact: Songs That Changed the World" (SRO Entertainment) [Buy Now]
· Kiss - "Kissology: The Ultimate Kiss Collection, Vol. 3: 1992-2000" (five-DVD box set; VH1 Classics) [Buy Now]
· The Moody Blues - "The Moody Blues Live: Lovely to See You" (HD DVD; Image Entertainment)
· Roy Orbison - "Black & White Night" (HD DVD; Image Entertainment)
· Chuck Rainey - "The Legendary Bass of Chuck Rainey" (Music Sales)
· Three 6 Mafia - "Adventures in Hollywood" (Columbia)
· Tool - "Vicarious" (Jive) [Buy Now]
· Shania Twain - "Any Man of Mine - Impact: Songs That Changed the World" (SRO Entertainment) [Buy Now]
· Various artists - "Band Aid: Do They Know It's Christmas? - Impact: Songs That Changed the World" (SRO Entertainment)
· Benzos - Coup d'état (free self-release available here)
· Michael Brook - "Into the Wild" score (available exclusively on iTunes; Lakeshore)
· The Dig - Good Luck and Games (EP) [Buy Now]
· Eisley - Like the Actors (Warner Bros./ Reprise; available exclusively on iTunes)
· Doug Levitt - Diaries: Eastbound Edition (digital e-book with four-song EP; available on iTunes)
· Ozomatli - Live From SoHo (available exclusively on iTunes)
· Silverchair - The Greatest View EP (available exclusively on iTunes) [Buy Now]
· Gordon Withers - Jawbox on Cello: A Benefit for Cal Robbins (streaming here; Ioda)
· Various artists - "High School Musical 2": Non-Stop Dance Party (Disney)
· Various artists - "Young Frankenstein: The New Mel Brooks Musical" (Decca Broadway)
· Radiohead - In Rainbows (TBD/ATO) [Preorder]
· Various artists - "Elvis: Viva Las Vegas" soundtrack (Sony)
· Sia - Some People Have Real Problems (Monkey Puzzle) [Preorder]
· Testament - Demonic and Hammer of the Gods reissues (Prosthetic) [Preorder]
· Various artists - ... And All the Pieces Matter: Five Years of Music From "The Wire" (Nonesuch)