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The songwriter-turned-performer has one of the biggest hits in the country in the crossover smash, "So Sick," which has not been made available on iTunes before the album's release, which will put to the test the idea that Steve Jobs' red-hot service does indeed cannibalize the sale of of full-length CDs.

NE-YO FROM THE GET-GO

Def Jam/IDJ Rapper Will Easily Outdistance Country Star Alan Jackson, Indie rockers Hawthorne Heights for Top Spot
It's about time for 2006 to begin in the record industry.
 
March will roar in like a lion for the bealeaguered biz when Def Jam/IDJ's Ne-Yo proves to be the year's first breakout artist, with his debut album, In My Own Words, set to debut atop next Tuesday's HITS album chart with somewhere in the vicinity of 275-300k in first-week sales. Mr. L.A. Reid and Jay-Z gotta be feeling good about that, and so do the rest of us, as it gives people a reason to go to their local record store... or Best Buy.
 
The numbers are based on one-day figures from retailers around the country, so don't bet the bank on them. But do dazzle your friends with your prescience.
 
The songwriter-turned-performer has one of the biggest hits in the country in the crossover smash, "So Sick," which has not been made available on iTunes before the album's release, which will put to the test the idea that Steve Jobs' red-hot service does indeed cannibalize the sale of of full-length CDs. The new single, "When You're Mad," goes to radio this month.
 
The Camden, AR-born, Las Vegas-raised Shaffer C. Smith previously had a #1 hit as co-writer of Mario's 2004 hit, "Let Me Love You."
 
Victory indie faves Hawthorne Heights will be angling for #2 with some 100-110k in sales for their new album, If Only You Were Lonely, though it might experience an uptick with fan-site figures, according to distributor RED. Label ruler Tony Brummel has been vocal about having no deal with iTunes to sell the album or tracks, so again, these first-week numbers might tell us something about that decision. This is the follow-up to the band's 2004 album, The Silence in Black and White, which has sold more than 3/4 of a million to date.
 
Arista Nashville's Alan Jackson album, Precious Memories, would ordinarily be larger than the 95-100k it appears, but it's a gospel effort and could be inflated by Christian bookstore numbers.
 
Kid Rock returns with a Live Truckin' album on Atlantic that is expected to do in the 50-60k range. 
 
Finally, our crack(ed) retail prognosticator says to look for huge gains on all Johnny Cash titles, thanks to the release of the Oscar-nominated Walk the Line on DVD this week, and probably Academy Awards visibility this weekend. That could well send Legacy/Columbia Nashville/American/Island/UME's The Legend of Johnny Cash back into the Top 5, nearing the 100k mark. 
GRUBMAN & BRANCA
ON THE MENU
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LORETTA LYNN,
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Honoring the life and music of a truth-teller (10/5a)
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It was a surprisingly easy "Habit" to break. (10/5a)
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It's the one you didn't see coming.
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"Who took my passports?"
HITS' 36TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL
Allow us to apologize in advance.
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