For people whose livelihoods depend on selling CDs, this Black Friday comes in a bleak year.  Sales are down at least 11 per cent from last year and even digital music sales have reached some kind of ugly plateau. It hasn’t helped that the fourth quarter of 2009 has been almost devoid of big-name releases and breakout hits that can draw millions into record stores in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Sure, there have been a couple—Taylor Swift’s Speak Now being the only true certified smash by selling a million copies in its first week—but there’s been little else to celebrate. Who might come to the rescue? 

Certainly not rock records because there’s been a dearth of those. The ones we’ve seen—Kings of Leon, Linkin Park and Weezer, to name a few—have  failed to deliver monster numbers, so it’s up to pop, hip-hop and R&B to come to the rescue and close the sales gap.

Kanye West should have an excellent week thanks to the reviews he’s getting for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (out now), a CD that received an almost unheard-of 10/10 from the notoriously snarky Pitchfork. Expect it to be a healthy No. 1 debut when the numbers come out next Wednesday.

They’re going back to the Justin Bieber well again for My Worlds (Acoustic), which goes on sale today. Even though it’s essentially a re-recording of My World 2.0 (read:  money grab), it should do well, especially after the Biebster’s showing on the American Music Awards last weekend.

Tuesday, the Black Eyed Peas issue The Beginning (the follow-up to stupidly successful The E.N.D., geddit?), the same day as new albums from Flo Rida and Soulja Boy. That should provide an interesting three-way race.

Dec. 7 should be interesting with the release of No Mercy from T.I., who is currently serving time for a probation violation. That kind of street cred usually translates into sales.

The biggest wild card of the season will come Dec. 14 with the release of Michael, the posthumous Michael Jackson album. Or is it? Members of the Jackson family have openly questioned whether that’s all Michael’s voice on the album or just samples of the real thing cleverly blended with soundalikes.

Maybe 2011 will be better. At least rock fans will have lots to choose from in January and February. 

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