WINNER OF THE WEEK: The downsizing of Paul Simon. Just five years ago, Simon was still acting like a huge pop star, putting out albums for his longtime major record label, Warner Music, and performing in amphitheatres and arenas. He has since left Warner and, following Paul McCartney's example, signed with tiny Hear Music/Concord. And his new tour is in Fillmore Auditoriums, House of Blueses and Beacon Theatres. It's perhaps a stretch to call Simon an indie rocker, especially since he can flip the megastar switch anytime he wants to hit the road with old buddy Art Garfunkel, but his excellent new album So Beautiful or So What is certainly taking that undersized approach. It's rewarded this week with 68,000 sales, enough for Number Four on Billboard's album chart, the highest solo debut of Simon's career. And while Simon will almost certainly follow the pattern of contemporaries such as McCartney and the Stones and drop down the charts after a week or two, the showing will boost his already-strong concert ticket sales.
WINNER OF THE WEEK, PART TWO: Lady Gaga fans. You know how pop stars are always complaining when their songs leak on the Internet before they're ready to come out? You know how this almost always seems to benefit the pop star in the end? Well, Gaga has that non-problem times infinity. "'Judas' is leaking a slow death!" she says in this Gagavision video. "They were like tearing [the song] limb from limb – first it was like the arm of the song, and then the liver." So here it is, making its debut on the Billboard singles chart at Number 10, selling 162,000 downloads and hitting iTunes' chart at Number Four. She doesn't seem too sad about it in the video.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: This column, for disparaging Rihanna the other week. It turns out things change quickly on the pop charts. Her single "S&M" vaulted from Number Two to Number One, making her the youngest artist to have a career with 10 Number Ones (after Mariah Carey, who was 25 to Rihanna's 23). And we're hearing from concert-industry sources that the reports of her tour selling poorly were perhaps premature. Although Rihanna's tour costs significantly more (at $60 to $100 per ticket) than, for example, Katy Perry's ($45), she's developing into a megastar with a career rather than just a hottie with a couple of hits. Stay tuned – our guess is she'll have to drop that ticket price just a bit more in order to stave off the demons that turned her 2010 summer tour into a flop.
LAST WEEK: The Resurrection of Rap-Rock