Happy early Thanksgiving, folks! As many of you know, less than 24 hours after we have stuffed ourselves with turkey and trimmings, many of us will be lining up in front of our favorite shopping emporium to take part in the ridiculousness that is commonly known as Black Friday. The busiest shopping day of the year? Of course, the music industry is going to take advantage. This week brings forth a veritable cornucopia of A-list releases from giants in rock, pop and soul.

Of course, we’re going to lead off this week’s proceedings with The King of Pop. “Immortal” is the name of the show that Cirque du Soleil has put together with the help of the Jackson Estate, and the soundtrack of the same name is hitting stores today. An album-length mashup of some of MJ’s biggest hits, given that gauzy aura that all Cirque records seem to have? I don’t know how appealing that sounds to Michael’s fanbase, but given the commendable job they did with The Beatles’ “Love” album, something tells me that they’ll treat MJ’s music just fine.

Rihanna is closer to the current Queen of Pop than some might give her credit for. Who’s her competition? Beyonce? Britney Spears? She makes better records (and has had more chart success recently) than either. She also releases albums at a fucking breakneck pace. Talk That Talk is the Barbadian beauty’s sixth studio album in seven years. We West Indians are some hard working folk…it’s not just an old wives’ tale. Anyway, RiRi’s new album has already spawned a #1 smash with “We Found Love”. Looking like another huge hit for her.

If there’s a contender for Rihanna’s throne, it might be the current Princess of Country, Taylor Swift. Taylor’s the biggest selling artist in music over the past half-decade or so, and our wallets will be pinched this week with her first live album, Speak Now: World Tour Live. It comes with a bonus DVD, and there’s no extra points for figuring out which parts of the album are overdubbed to cover up for Taylor’s bum notes.

The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, Mary J. Blige, is referencing her most fondly remembered album for her latest effort. My Life 2: The Journey Continues comes 17 years after the first My Life chronicled her turbulent affair with K-Ci Hailey and galvanized mistreated sistas everywhere. Making a sequel to an album two decades after the fact is a warning sign, and the fact that this album has been delayed many, MANY times is yet another warning sign. But I have faith in Mary, so hopefully this album will bring the goods.

Are Nickelback the Kings of Rock? Well, they certainly sell more records than just about any band right now, except maybe Coldplay. This despite the fact that they are the most hated band in popular music right now-but I guess that comes with the territory. Considering Chad Kroeger and company are rolling in dough right now, I doubt they care very much. Here & Now promises yet another bunch of hooky but generic rock anthems and lighter-wavin’ ballads for Middle America, and if that isn’t enough corpo-rock for ya, you can also grab a copy of Break The Spell, the third album from the American version of Nickelback, Daughtry.

As if that wasn’t enough to get you going, you also can purchase new albums from teen pop sensation Big Time Rush (who have the added benefit of having a Nickelodeon show of their own), Chris Cornell (an acoustic-ish reimagining of some of his biggest Soundgarden and Audioslave hits), and Willie Nelson (who’s going the standards route for his latest album.) There’s also the sophomore effort from Javier Colon, who you might remember as the winner of the first season of televised talent competition “The Voice”. Can the success of the four judges rub off on Colon? If he’s not your speed, you might want to check out 50 Words For Snow, the latest album by super-literate British singer/songwriter Kate Bush. While I appreciate Kate’s talent, something about her work has always been a bit too obtuse for me.

On the reissue tip, there’s a box set from prog-rock favorites Rush (sure to make some of our staffers ridiculously happy) and yet another reissue of the classic Rolling Stones album Some Girls. I swear, they find unreleased tracks from these sessions every three or four years, it seems.

Of course, make sure you’re checking out Pause and Play for current and future release information! Now, don’t spend all your money on cranberry sauce and Tums. Buy some music!

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