Taylor Swift has a new album out, in case you haven't heard. OK, you've heard, you've heard. The only thing that's receiving more attention these days is how a few thousand undecided voters in Ohio are leaning from hour to hour.
Red is expected to ring up the highest one-week sales tally since 50 Cent's The Massacre sold 1,141,000 copies in its first week in March 2005. (If everything falls into place, Red could even achieve the highest one-week total since Eminem's The Eminem Show sold 1,322,000 copies in its first full week of release in June 2002.)
The projected tally for Red is up from the 1,047,000 that Swift sold in her first week with Speak Low in October 2010. Swift will be one of only four artists to ring up first-week sales of 1 million or more copies more than once. The others are Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC and Eminem. That will make Swift the first female artist and the first country artist to achieve this feat. Also, she'll be just the second artist, following Backstreet Boys, to see its sales increase from its first million-selling debut to its second.
Backstreet Boys scored in 1999 with Millennium (1,134,000) and in 2000 with Black And Blue (1,591,000). *NSYNC scored in 2000 with No Strings Attached (2,416,000) and in 2001 with Celebrity (1,880,000). Eminem scored in 2000 with The Marshall Mathers LP (1,760,000) and in 2002 with The Eminem Show (1,322,000). The Fine Print: That was the first full week of release for The Eminem Show, which had debuted the previous week based on just three days of sales. Details below.
Red will be Swift's third #1 album on The Billboard 200. That will make Swift only the third female artist in country music history to notch three #1 albums. She'll follow Faith Hill, who scored with Breathe, Cry and Fireflies, and Carrie Underwood, who scored with Carnival Ride, Play On and Blown Away. (Hill, of course, is married to Tim McGraw, the subject of Swift's first hit on both the Hot 100 and Hot Country Songs, "Tim McGraw.")
Red is also expected to debut at #1 in the U.K. It would be Swift's first #1 album in the U.K. Fearless peaked at #5. Speak Now reached #6. Red would be only the second country/pop crossover album to reach #1 in both the U.S. and the U.K. since the U.K. album chart originated in 1956. It would follow Eagles' Long Road Out Of Eden, which topped the charts in both countries in 2007.
This will be the second year in which Swift posted the biggest first-week sales tally of any album that year. She also had the biggest first-week tally of 2010 with Speak Low. Swift is one of four artists to have the year's fastest-breaking new album two or more times since 1992, the first full year that Nielsen SoundScan tracked sales for Billboard. Garth Brooks had the fastest-breaking album four times in the 1990s. *NSYNC and 50 Cent each had it twice.
This will be the seventh time since 1992 that a country artist has had the year's fastest-breaking album, a sign of the genre's strength. Pop artists have earned the title six times; rap artists, five times; rock artists, twice. Usher is the only R&B artist to have done it. (I'm classifying The Beatles as pop, though you could just as easily call them rock.)
Here are the albums that sold the most copies in their first week of release in every year since 1992. The dates shown are Nielsen SoundScan dates, which run 13 days ahead of Billboard issue dates (six days ahead in 1992). In all but two cases, these are also the albums that sold the most copies in any one week during the year (whether it was their first week or not). I'll fill you in on The Fine Print as we go along.
1992: Garth Brooks' The Chase, 403K. The album debuted at #1 the week ending Oct. 4 as the socially-conscious "We Shall Be Free" rose to #13 on Hot Country Songs. The album sold even more copies (413K) the following week. It was Brooks' second #1 album, following 1991's Ropin' The Wind. Note: Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard had the biggest overall sales week that year. It sold 1,061,000 copies in its sixth week of release. That was in the week ending Jan. 3, 1993.
1993: Pearl Jam's Vs., 950K. The album debuted at #1 the week ending Oct. 24 as "Go" slipped from #4 to #5 on Album Rock Tracks and "Daughter" shot from #32 to #15. (This was before the band had ever cracked the Hot 100.) It was the rock band's first #1 album. Ten had logged four weeks at #2.
1994: Garth Brooks' The Hits, 520K. The album debuted at #3 the week ending Dec. 18 as "The Red Strokes" dropped from #61 to #64 on Hot Country Songs. It was Brooks' fourth #1 album. The Hits also had the biggest overall sales week that year, when it sold 907K copies in its second week.
1995: The Beatles' Anthology 1, 855K. The album debuted at #1 the week ending Nov. 26. It was the Beatles' 16th #1 album; their first since 1973. The album's success paved the way for two more chart-topping Anthology volumes. It culminated in the blockbuster success of the 2000 greatest hits compilation 1.
1996: Metallica's Load, 680K. The album debuted at #1 the week ending June 9 as "Until It Sleeps" dropped from #11 to #14 on the Hot 100. It was the metal band's second #1 album in a row, following 1991's Metallica.
1998: Garth Brooks' Double Live, 1,085,000. This was the first album in Nielsen SoundScan history to sell 1 million or more copies in its first week. The album debuted at #1 the week ending Nov. 22 as Brooks' top 10 country hit "It's Your Song" became his first Hot 100 entry. It was Brooks' seventh #1 album. This marked the first time in the Nielsen SoundScan era that an artist had the fastest-breaking album of the year in back-to-back years.
1999: Backstreet Boys' Millennium, 1,134,000. The album debuted at #1 the week ending May 23 as the silky "I Want It That Way" jumped from #17 to #13. It was the boy band's first #1 album. Backstreet Boys had reached #4.
2000: *NSYNC's No Strings Attached, 2,416,000. This is the only album in the history of the music business to sell 2 million or more copies in its first week. The album debuted at #1 the week ending March 26 as "Bye Bye Bye" held at #5 for the fourth week. It was the boy band's first #1 album. *NSYNC had spent three weeks at #2.
2001: *NSYNC's Celebrity, 1,880,000. The album debuted at #1 the week ending July 29, as "Pop" dropped from #55 to #62. It was the boy band's second #1 album in a row. This marked the second time in the Nielsen SoundScan era that an artist had the fastest-breaking album of the year in back-to-back years.
2002: Eminem's The Eminem Show, 1,322,000. This one's tricky. The album debuted at #1 the week ending May 26, with sales of 285K. It rang up the million-plus sales tally in its second week on top, which was its first full week of release. The album sold the smaller tally in just three days. The release date was hurriedly pushed up (twice) after the album became widely available on Internet file-sharing sites. I don't think it's fair to deny Eminem the year's first-week sales crown on a technicality, so I'm counting it. (The witty "Without Me" was #4 on the Hot 100 both weeks.) It was the rapper's second #1 album, following The Marshall Mathers LP. If you want to be a stickler, the year's first-week champ would be Shania Twain's Up!, which sold 874,000 copies in the week ending Nov. 24.
2003: 50 Cent's Get Rich Or Die Tryin', 872K. The album debuted at #1 the week ending Feb. 9 as "In Da Club" jumped from #4 to #2. This marked the first time in the Nielsen SoundScan era that an artist's first studio album rang up the biggest first-week sales of the year.
2004: Usher's Confessions, 1,096,000. The album debuted at #1 the week ending March 28 as "Yeah!" (featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris) logged its seventh week at #1 and "Burn" jumped from #15 to #10. It was the R&B superstar's first #1 album. My Way and 8701 had both reached #4.
2005: 50 Cent's The Massacre, 1,141,000. The album debuted at #1 the week ending March 6 as "Candy Shop" (featuring Olivia) logged its third week at #1. It was the rapper's second #1 album.
2006: Rascal Flatts' Me And My Gang, 722K. The album debuted at #1 the week ending April 9 as "What Hurts The Most" shot from #52 to #8. It was the country trio's second #1 album, following 2004's Feels Like Today.
2007: Kanye West's Graduation, 957K. The album debuted at #1 the week ending Sept. 16 as "Stronger" jumped from #2 to #1. It was the rapper's second #1 album, following 2005's Late Registration. Graduation won a heavily-publicized show-down with 50 Cent's Curtis, which sold 691K that week.
2008: Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III, 1,006,000. The album debuted at #1 the week ending June 15 as "Lollipop" (featuring Static Major) dropped from #1 to #3 and "A Milli" jumped from #29 to #26. It was the rapper's first #1 album. Tha Carter II had reached #2.
2009: Susan Boyle's I Dreamed A Dream, 701K. The album debuted at #1 the week ending Nov. 29 as the title track (from Les Miserables) entered the Hot 100 at #62 and Boyle's cover of the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" bowed at #98. This marked the second time in the Nielsen SoundScan era that an artist's first studio album rang up the biggest first-week sales of the year.
2010: Taylor Swift's Speak Now, 1,047,000. The album debuted at #1 the week ending Oct. 31 as "Sparks Fly" debuted at #17, "Mine" slipped from #13 to #21 and "Innocent" debuted at #27. It was Swift's second #1 album, following 2008's Fearless.
2011: Lady Gaga's Born This Way, 1,108,000. The album debuted at #1 the week ending May 29 as the anthemic "The Edge Of Glory" leaped from #19 to #8. It was the pop star's first #1 album. The Fame had reached #2 in 2010. Note: Gaga's tally includes an estimated 400K copies that were sold for 99 cents at Amazon MP3. If you discount those discounted copies, Lil Wayne's Tha Carter IV would have gotten off to the year's fastest start. It sold 964K copies in the week ending Sept. 4.
2012: Taylor Swift's Red, 1,115,000 (projection). The album is set to debut at #1 next week, as "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" holds at #4 (also a projection). It'll be Swift's third #1 album.
And in non-Swift news: Kendrick Lamar's debut album, good kid m.A.A.d. city, is expected to debut at #2 with a sales tally around 235K. Tony Bennett's Viva Duets is expected to debut at #5. Also look for high debuts from Stone Sour's House Of Gold & Bones, Part One (around #8), Lady Antebellum's On This Winter's Night (#9), Gary Clark Jr.'s Blak And Blu (#13) and Swedish House Mafia's Until Now (#15).