Will it be [artist id="846"]Guns N' Roses[/artist] or [artist id="1230523"]Kanye West[/artist]?
That was the question on everybody's minds Sunday night outside Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre, just before the start of the 36th annual American Music Awards. With two of the year's biggest releases dropping within the past 48 hours — GN'R's more-than-16-years-in-the-making Chinese Democracy and Mr. West's 808s & Heartbreak — the battle for Billboard's coveted peak position is on.
Music-industry insiders are paying close attention, because no one knows for sure who will end up opening at #1 when sales figures are released December 3. Could Rose's long-awaited opus outsell the latest album from one of hip-hop's biggest MCs? We surveyed several of the performers, winners and presenters during Sunday's AMAs to find out who they're backing in next week's Billboard showdown. Not surprisingly, most of those who spoke with us said they think it will be a tight race but one that will eventually end with Kanye walking away the victor.
"Oh, I don't know," "American Idol" winner [artist id="2807016"]Jordin Sparks[/artist] said when asked who she thought would sell more records. "Guns N' Roses have some pretty avid fans, but so does Kanye. I want to pull for both of them, but I'm going to say Guns N' Roses, maybe. Kanye will probably hate me now. Crap."
Last week, MTV News learned that Geffen Records, which issued Democracy on Sunday as a Best Buy exclusive, would be holding on to GN'R's first-day sales figures until November 30, the same day West's label will report his week-one sales to Nielsen SoundScan. Typically, albums are released in the U.S. on Tuesdays and SoundScan tracks weekly sales data from Monday through Sunday, meaning that most albums' debut spots on the Billboard chart are based on six sales days. At first, most assumed day-one sales of Chinese Democracy would be reported next week and released the morning of November 26.
"We've got an undeniable producer, an undeniable hip-hop artist, and we've got history," [artist id="2002414"]Ne-Yo[/artist] said, while weighing the matchup Sunday. "Damn, man — I don't know. It's going to be a hell of a fight. I mean, I guess Guns N' Roses needed time to get everything together, so as long as the album's good. ... If you wait that long, you need to come out with something fantastic. I can't even make a prediction on that one."
[artist id="1946832"]Fray[/artist] frontman Isaac Slade thinks West has the best shot at opening on top but admitted that it could go Guns' way, because "16 years is a long time to wait for a record." [artist id="1386911"]The-Dream[/artist] was very confident in his prediction: "Kanye West. I think he'll come out on top, by just a little bit."
One of Axl Rose's contemporaries, [artist id="997"]Mötley Crüe[/artist]'s Vince Neil, was just as conflicted about it but thinks West will down Democracy. Of course, Neil and Rose have had their differences in the past.
"It will probably be close, but Kanye will probably take it," he said. "The thing about Guns N' Roses is, it's not really Guns N' Roses. If Slash and Duff were still in it, I'd be a little more excited. Hopefully, it's a good album. I hope it's worth it, because they spent a lot of money and a lot of time on it. I like to record in two weeks, so I never second-guess myself.
[artist id="2575099"]Colbie Caillat[/artist] thinks both acts have a fair shot at #1 but tends to side with Kanye in next week's battle, because "people love him." Joe Jonas of the [artist id="2088128"]Jonas Brothers[/artist] wouldn't pick one name over the other, instead wishing "great things for both of these legendary artists." He did, however, follow that up by saying, "We've been listening to Kanye's new record," and that they're all "excited to get it for ourselves."
[artist id="1240040"]Akon[/artist] also had a hard time picking a favorite. "That's a tough one," he said. "I'll buy both. I'm sure I'm not the only person who thinks that way. Kanye's always definitely been a guy who goes outside the box. And Guns N' Roses are legends, of course. That's a tough one."
For actor [movieperson id="29661"]Terrence Howard[/movieperson], it wasn't so much a question of who, but when. "It would have been Guns N' Roses 15 years ago, hands down, but the mood has changed," he said. "Kanye has a lot of people anticipating his record. I think Kanye will open bigger, but I think Guns N' Roses has a bigger fanbase, and they will catch up [to West's sales] within the next month."