To the surprise of no one, the double A-side single, "Before Your Love/ A Moment Like This" from "American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson blew away the competition.
With sales of more than 236,000 copies in its first week, according to SoundScan, the single will easily top next week's Billboard singles chart. The closest competition came from singer Nivea's "Don't Mess With My Man," which was a distant second with sales of 4,955.
Clarkson's debut was so huge it outstripped all of the other top 20 singles, which sold only 34,331 combined. From New York to Texas to California, "Before Your Love" was flying off the shelves.
"It's fantastic," said Aaron Borns, director of marketing for Clarkson's label, RCA Records. "The sales were so strong early in the week that we expected to see very big numbers, but this is one of the biggest singles anyone has had in years."
So just how big is it?
Borns said in terms of units sold, Clarkson's single was the #2 best-selling record in the United States overall last week, beat out only by the #1 debut on the Billboard albums chart of Disturbed's Believe, which sold more than 283,000 copies. The song was the #1 single in every market in the U.S, Borns said, with New York and Dallas topping the list of sales leaders.
Tony Castillo, the pop buyer for the Tower Records in Lincoln Center in New York, said the store moved 258 copies of the single in its first week. "People couldn't wait for it," Castillo said.
At the Wal-Mart in Clarkson's hometown of Burleson, Texas, assistant manager Pedro Rodriguez said he sold more than 250 copies a day. "People are coming in to buy it because they know her and because they want to support a local girl," Rodriguez said.
As of Tuesday the store had sold 2,229 of its 5,000 copies, making it one of the outlet's biggest selling singles in recent memory and giving renewed hope for the moribund singles format. Rodriguez said the single is being promoted throughout the store, in addition to a pair of Coke-sponsored banners hanging on either side of the entrance congratulating Burleson's favorite daughter. Clarkson is slated to make a personal appearance at the store on October 21.
In its first few weeks at radio, if it wasn't #1, "Before Your Love" was typically in the top five at most pop radio stations across the country, according to Sean Ross, group editor at the radio programming magazine Airplay Monitor. "You'd expect that given the nature of what it was," Ross said. The song rose from #31 to #21 on the Top 40 chart, making it the fastest rising of all the records that have been on the charts for only two weeks.
"It's ahead of where Christina's ['Dirrty'] was last week," Ross said. "If you look at Kelly Osbourne's 'Papa Don't Preach,' it wouldn't have existed without the TV show. But it got to where Kelly [Clarkson's] record is and lost momentum. There's only so much you can get out of TV exposure and then the record has to carry it. I think the numbers for Kelly Clarkson bode well for the album being such a sales hit that it doesn't really matter what it does at radio.
"In certain ways, this record is like Elton John's 'Candle in the Wind '97,' in that people are buying it as a collectible even it it's not getting radio spins," he added.
Only time will tell if the momentum holds up until the release of Clarkson's full-length debut album, originally slated for release on November 26 but now marked for early 2003. Next up for Clarkson are four featured songs on the upcoming American Idol: Greatest Moments album, due October 1 (see " 'American Idol' CD To Feature Four Kelly Clarkson Numbers"). The 15-track LP will feature songs from all 10 of the "Idol" finalists. A week later, the final 10 hit the road for a 28-date tour beginning October 8 at the Cox Arena in San Diego (see " 'American Idol' Finalists Plan Arena Tour, Compilation Album").