Jason Aldean's Night Train enters The Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 409K. But it's being overshadowed by Taylor Swift's Red, which was just released on Monday and won't chart for another week. Swift's album is on track to sell 1.1 million to 1.2 million in its first week. Remarkably, the album will sell more copies in its first week than the next two first-week sales leaders of 2012 combined. They are Mumford & Sons' Babel, which sold 600K in its first week last month, and Night Train.
This would make Swift only the fourth artist to sell 1 million copies of two albums in their first week of release. Backstreet Boys achieved the feat with Millennium (1,134,000) and Black & Blue (1,591,000). *NSYNC scored with No Strings Attached (2,416,000) and Celebrity (1,880,000). Eminem did it with The Marshall Mathers LP (1,760,000) and The Eminem Show (1,322,000).
This of course means that Swift would be the first female artist and the first country artist to achieve the feat.
The Fine Print: The Eminem Show debuted at #1 with sales of 285K, which reflected just three days of sales. It rang up the million-plus sales tally in its second week on top, which was its first full week of release. The album's release date was hurriedly pushed up (twice) after the album became widely available on Internet file-sharing sites. The hefty figure for its first full week of release is more indicative of its true strength than the slim figure for its first few days, so I'm counting it.
This isn't the first time that Swift has bested Aldean on the charts. Speak Now kept Aldean's last album, My Kinda Party, from reaching #1. Party debuted and peaked at #2 the week ending Nov. 7, 2010, while Speak Now was in its second week on top. At least this time, Aldean was able to sneak in a week at #1 before Red blows it out of the top spot.
If these early sales projections for Red hold up, Red will be the 18th album in Nielsen SoundScan history to sell 1 million copies in its first week of release.
Here's a list of the others, in chronological (not ranked) order. (Dates are Nielsen SoundScan dates, which run 13 days ahead of Billboard issue dates.)
Garth Brooks' Double Live. Brooks' simply-titled double live album sold 1,085,000 copies in the week ending Nov. 22, 1998. This is the first-week sales record for a country album, though Red has a chance of breaking it.
Backstreet Boys' Millennium. The boy band's sophomore album sold 1,134,000 copies in the week ending May 23, 1999. That was the highest first-week sales tally to that point.
*NSYNC's No Strings Attached. The boy band's sophomore album sold 2,416,000 copies in the week ending March 26, 2000. This remains the first-week (and one-week) sales record.
Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP. The rapper's sophomore album sold 1,760,000 copies in the week ending May 28, 2000. This remains the first-week sales record for a rap album. This also remains the only time in Nielsen SoundScan history that albums debuted with sales of 1 million plus copies in back-to-back weeks.
Limp Bizkit's Chocolate Starfish And The Hot Dog Flavored Water. The rock band's third studio album sold 1,055,000 copies in the week ending Oct. 22, 2000.
Backstreet Boys' Black & Blue. The boy band's third album sold 1,591,000 copies in the week ending Nov. 26, 2000.
*NSYNC's Celebrity. The boy band's third studio album sold 1,880,000 copies in the week ending July 29, 2001.
Eminem's The Eminem Show. The rapper's third album sold 1,322,000 copies in the week ending June 2, 2002, when it was in its first full week of release. As noted above, it had sold 285K the week before, based on just three days of sales.
Norah Jones' Feels Like Home. Jones' sophomore album (her follow-up to the Grammy-winning Come Away With Me) sold 1,022,000 copies in the week ending Feb. 15, 2004.
Usher's Confessions. The R&B star's fourth studio album sold 1,096,000 copies in the week ending March 28, 2004. This remains the first-week sales record for an R&B album.
Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III. The rapper's sixth studio album sold 1,006,000 copies in the week ending June 15, 2008.
Taylor Swift's Speak Now. Swift's third studio album sold 1,047,000 copies in the week ending Oct. 31, 2010. This is the current record for a female country artist, though Swift may top it this week.
Lady Gaga's Born This Way. Gaga's second full-length studio album sold 1,108,000 copies in the week ending May 29, 2011. Note: An estimated 400K of those sales were for just 99 cents through AmazonMP3.
In addition, two other albums sold 1 million or more copies in one week, but they weren't in their first week of release.
Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard. The soundtrack sold 1,061,000 copies in the week ending Jan. 3, 1993, when it was in its sixth week of release. This is the greatest one-week sales tally for a soundtrack in the Nielsen SoundScan era.
The Beatles' 1. The hit-studded compilation sold 1,259,000 copies in the week ending Dec. 24, 2000, when it was in its sixth week of release. This is the greatest one-week sales tally for a greatest hits album in the Nielsen SoundScan era.
This would be the third year in a row that an album has sold 1 million copies in its first week of release. This would constitute the longest streak with at least one million-plus debut per year since it happened five years in a row from 1998-2002.
Red is a lock to become Swift's third #1 album on The Billboard 200. Swift will be only the second female artist in country music history to notch three #1 albums. She will 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.")
This will be the second year in which Swift posted the biggest first-week sales of any album that year. She also had the biggest first-week tally of 2010 with Speak Low.
Swift will be 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. In addition to Brooks and Swift, Rascal Flatts had the biggest debut of 2006.