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■ TAYLOR SWIFT LEAVES IMPRESSION ON JAPAN WITH MEDIA WHIRLWIND AND GOLD ALBUM CERT: Following her sold-out tour of Australia, Taylor Swift traveled to Japan this week to perform another sold-out concert in Tokyo [click here to watch snippet] and to make several high-profile media appearances.  Upon arrival at Narita International Airport last Sunday, Taylor was met by hundreds of fans welcoming her to Japan [click here for Japanese news coverage of her arrival].  During her stay, Taylor appeared on Japan TV’s Zoom In program [clickhere], interviewed and performed on popular morning TV show Sukkuri [click here and here], appeared on Mezamashi TV [click here], and made a cameo appearance on Waratte Iitomo [click here].  Additionally, Taylor taped an appearance on NHK Music Japan which will air on February 28th.  To top off the trip she called “amazing” on Twitter, before departing Japan, the superstar learned that her FEARLESS album had been certified GOLD in the country.  Taylor returns to Nashville this week after three weeks overseas to perform at Country Radio Seminar’s ACM Music City Jam on Wednesday night.

■ VALENTINE’S DAY MOVIE HAS BLOCKBUSTER OPENING; SOUNDTRACK SCANS MORE THAN 28K UNITS IN FIRST WEEK: In what is the largest opening for a romantic comedy ever, VALENTINE’S DAY brought in over 63 million in its President’s Day opening weekend box office, becoming the week’s #1 movie!  The all-star cast includes Taylor Swift, in her first feature film role.  Complementing the box office success is the retail success for the VALENTINE’S DAY Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (WaterTower/Big Machine), which scanned over 28,000 units in its first week.  The eclectic soundtrack, which debuted at #2 on Billboard Top Soundtracks chart and #20 on the Billboard Top 200, features new music from Taylor Swift (“Today Was A Fairytale”) and Jewel (“Stay Here Forever”), plus Steel Magnolia’s current single “Keep On Lovin’ You”.  Over 40% of first-week soundtrack sales were designated as digital purchases, likely enhanced by an aggressive viral marketing campaign for the film and soundtrack.  For more information visit

■ STEEL MAGNOLIA SINGLE GOES TOP 15; EP AVAILABLE THIS TUESDAY: Steel Magnolia jumped into the Top 15 on the Billboard Top Country Songs chart this week with their hit, “Keep On Lovin’ You” – the highest charting single from a debut Country duo in over three years.  The single is featured on the original motion picture soundtrack of the hit film, Valentine’s Day, which shattered box office records this past weekend.  The Academy of Country Music Awards nominees (for Top New Vocal Duo) will release a 5-song EP next Tuesday, February 23rd, simply entitled STEEL MAGNOLIA EP.  The EP features the hit single, “Keep On Lovin’ You,” as well as fan favorites “Ooh La La” (as heard onCMT’s Can You Duet) and the very first song the on and off-screen couple ever wrote together, the no-nonsense heartbreaker, “Edge of Goodbye.”  The EP also includes two live performances of new songs “I Need You” and “Fast As You” from the rising stars.  “It’s been such an amazing, whirlwind year for us and we’re so excited to share some of our new music with our fans,” said Meghan Linsey of Steel Magnolia.  “We’re so appreciative to Country radio and all the support they’ve given us,” adds Joshua Scott Jones.  “These past few months have been a dream come true for us – we can’t wait to see what the next few have in store.”  The Academy of Country Music Awards will be broadcast live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday, April 18th on CBS at 8 pm ET/ 7 pm CT.  Fans can begin voting for the ACM Top New Vocal Duo Award at beginning Friday, February 26th.  

■ JACK INGRAM GLADLY BUYS INTO THE ‘CLICHÉ’ THAT HIS SINGLE PROJECTS: Jack Ingram’s new single “Free” is getting great response at radio, which prompted us to ask the singer if he always believes that the best things in life are free.  “Yes, we all know at some level that the best things in life truly are free—that’s why it becomes cliché, because that fact reigns true to us all,” notes Jack from his Acoustic Motel Tour.  “The wind in your hair, holding the hand of the one you love—heck, writing a song.  Or the feeling you get going out on a date, or the feeling after just working out.  When you talk with your mom or see a friend you haven’t seen in awhile.  All of those things are free, and they are the best things in life.”  Jack continues: “Sure there are things in this world that you can buy that are pretty fantastic, but those things apart from the natural high you get from the things that don’t cost you a dime, it doesn’t matter.”

■ JARON AND THE LONG ROAD TO LOVE’S WRITING EMBRACES THE FULL SPECTRUM OF EMOTIONS: “I try to stay as true to my heart as possible and that includes the ugliness too,” says Jaron of Jaron And The Long Road To Love, matter-of-factly.  “Sometimes everything that comes out of us isn’t so pretty.  And if I do it right, it’s either an inspirational song or a nostalgia song, and people can either look forward to falling in love like this, or remember falling in love like that, or hopefully avoid the pitfalls and remember how bad it was.  But in any of those situations when it comes to relationships, I don’t try to avoid clichés because I don’t really know what they are,” Jaron continues, with his current single “Pray For You” in mind.  “When I write, I simply sit down and tell the story, like a journalist would.  I try to use the same language one might in a dialogue, much the way that I would speak to somebody.  I try to use those words.  I don’t try to be clever or cutesy or fun, go through and pick [the right words].  I just say, ‘Okay, that didn’t rhyme, but that’s exactly what I felt and that’s going there.'"

■ RANDOM NOTES: Taylor Swift performed “You Belong With Me” on Australia’s So You Think You Can Dance before departing the country.  Her performance aired on February 18th broadcast.  To watch it, click hereTaylor Swift has been nominated for two Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards this week.  Taylor is nominated for Favorite Song (“You Belong With Me”) and Favorite Singer.  The 23rd Annual Kids Choice Awards will be broadcast on Nickelodeon on Friday, March 27th at 8 pm ET…Taylor Swift graces the cover of the current issue of Radio Inkmagazine…In RIAA’s (Recording Industry Association of America) recap of the past decade, Taylor Swift scored more digital song certifications (25) than any other female artist.


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