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Staind, Elliott Elevate Elektra

After a long time out in the cold, Elektra Records has been generating some serious heat on the album charts in recent weeks.

When album sales data for the week ended May 27 are released on Wednesday morning, the Warner Music label is expected to secure the No. 1 spot with “Break the Cycle,” the prophetically titled second album from white-hot metal band Staind. For the week, the disc scanned an estimated 716,000 copies, just 16,000 shy of the hottest debut week of the year (the Dave Matthews Band’s “Everyday”).

The Staind release follows a No. 2 bow last week for groundbreaking rap diva Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott’s third Elektra release “Miss E… So Addictive.”

The back-to-back hits are music to the ears of Elektra’s staff, and especially to label chief Sylvia Rhone – particularly after suffering through a drought of top-10 hits so far in 2001. Elektra’s last release to debut in the single digits was outsized rap star Busta Rhymes’ “Anarchy,” which opened in fourth place last June. Rhymes, annoyed by the album’s poor sales, defected to Clive Davis’ J Records earlier this year.

“What makes this comeback so rewarding is we were able to come out with two strong albums back to back,” Rhone told Daily Variety. “It gives our management a huge morale boost.”

The recent strength at Elektra is also cause for optimism for Elektra’s Warner Music parent, which has lingered in fourth place among the big-five major labels with a year-to-date U.S. market share of just under 13%. The label group has recently taken steps to streamline, laying off roughly 600 employees and retooling its distribution operations.

But Rhone said Elektra’s recent success stems from an emphasis on long-term career development that’s in increasingly short supply, as more and more hit acts are engineered for quick but ephemeral success.

“The business always goes in cycles: Even when we were at a low, we were still acquiring talent and building careers, ” Rhone said. “I’m not opposed to disposable music, but for me it’s all about careers and longevity.”

Nor has Elektra played its hand for the year, Rhone said. Due out next week is the soundtrack to the highly anticipated action pic “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” which includes cuts from Elliott, U2, Outkast and Moby.

Rhone also has high hopes for rapper Lil’ Mo’s new record, “Based on a True Story,” landing on June 26, as well as “Vespertine,” the fourth disc from Icelandic star Bjork, due in late August.

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