You'd be a fool to expect Justin Bieber to debut anywhere but the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 album chart next week. But experts are predicting that not only will JB top the tally, but he's headed for his best first-week ever and the likely crown of the year's biggest debut.
According to Billboard, Believe is on course to move between 410,000-440,000 units by the end of the reporting week on Sunday. If Bieber reaches those heights, he will move past the year's biggest debut to date, Madonna's MDNA, which opened with 359,000. Those kinds of numbers would also give Bieber his biggest first frame so far, beating the debut of 2010's My World 2.0, which moved 291,000 units in its first week.
Before the expected numbers hit, Bieber's manager, Scooter Braun, was already feeling bullish about the prospects. "I think it's gonna do well because I think people are really giving it a shot," he said of the album that critics have been praising for its maturity. "At the same time, I think that's my biggest hope that people judge him on the music. That they go and they listen to the album and they don't go in with any expectations. There's a lot of hype around him because of who he is and just shut your eyes, put on your headphones, and put on the music and then just decide if this album is worthy of your time."
Bieber is also hustling hard to make sure he makes the biggest impact possible with Believe, from his drama-filled prime-time NBC special to an MTV "Bieber Live" show that harkened back to the old "Total Request Live" era that helped make Timberlake a superstar. Those appearances, plus his worldwide promo tour and a string of co-signs from some of raps biggest names, could help Bieber land the biggest debut sales week of the year.
Even though he's burning the oil to get the word out to as many people as possible, Bieber is adamant about not sacrificing his art in the process. "I was very involved in the process [of making this album] -- I played instruments, produced, wrote -- so I want people to know it's not all hype," he said during the "Live" show. "I want people to know I've been working hard on my music. Focus on the music. Don't think I'm just this product pushed out there. I work hard, and music is really important to me. I see a lot of hate online, which is inevitable, but at the end of the day, I'm just trying to prove them wrong by making good music."
Maybe he's a bit biased (okay, of course he is), but Braun said that if people follow his advice and give Bieber a fair shake, "I think nine-and-three-fourths out of 10 people will say yes." We will find out on Wednesday when the new Billboard 200 is revealed.