If forecasts from industry insiders and retailers are any indication, country-sensation Garth Brooks and Wu Tang Clan's Method Man have a lot to look forward to on this week's Billboard 200 albums chart.
The two seem to be leading the pack of artists who saw their latest albums hit store shelves Nov. 17, a day dubbed "Super Tuesday" within the industry because of the seemingly unprecedented number of high-profile releases.
At minimum, thanks to numerous television appearances, collector's-edition covers and special sale prices at such major discount retailers as Wal-Mart and Kmart, Brooks should break this year's one-week sales record set by the Beastie Boys' Hello Nasty. That album moved 681,570 during its first week of release in July.
Still, the real success story on the charts Wednesday (Nov. 24), however, may be Method Man's Tical 2000: Judgement Day.
"Rappers always do really well their first week," explained Brad Stern, an assistant manager at Harmony House in Birmingham, Mich. "Method Man is by far the strongest rap release of the moment. Kids like what is new, and he is the newest rapper of the bunch.
"Ice Cube probably gained some sales because he played the Family Values tour," Stern said of the rapper's decision to join the heavy-metal-centric tour, "but Method Man is the one everyone seems to be talking about."
While the holiday-shopping season typically kicks off with a bang the day after Thanksgiving, "Super Tuesday" gave retailers a chance to get a jump on things with tens of thousands of additional music fans making special trips to record stores to snatch up new releases.
Joining Method Man and Brooks on the new-release roster were rappers Ice Cube and Geto Boys, who each saw their oft-pushed-back albums come out Nov. 17. Other new releases to hit store shelves came from R&B singers Seal and Whitney Houston; folk-pop singer/songwriter Jewel; Southern California punkers Offspring and pop-diva Mariah Carey.
Still, as "Super Tuesday" loomed, many chart watchers were looking to Garth Brooks' Double Live to top the Billboard 200 albums chart Wednesday. Many were speculating that he would break the one-week sales record set by Pearl Jam when their Vs. sold 950,378 copies during its first week of release in 1993.
Brooks may well be on his way to that record.
At Tower Records in Seattle, Wash., an assistant manager who identified himself only as Elliott said that Brooks' Double Live was the #1 seller of the week, but it was followed closely by Method Man's Tical 2000: Judgement Day and the Offspring's Americana, while Carey's #1s and Houston's My Love Is Your Love performed below expectations.
Though final sales figures were not expected to be released until Wednesday morning by SoundScan -- the company that tracks music sales -- articles in Billboard and Reuters have Brooks pegged to take the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart with expected sales figures of nearly 1 million.
Variety reported Thursday that Double Live, which includes live versions of such Brooks hits as "Friends In Low Places" and "Longneck Bottle" (RealAudio excerpt), set a one-day sales record Nov. 17 by moving 500,000 copies. A Wal-Mart retail-chain promotion of the LP helped push the chain to their best-ever day of music sales.
By comparison, Def Jam, Method Man's label, reports that Tical 2000: Judgement Day, which features such songs as "Judgement Day" (RealAudio excerpt) and the RZA-produced "Perfect World" (RealAudio excerpt), moved 150,000 copies on its first day of release.
But album sales seemed to be up in general across the board last week.
"We were pretty busy," reported Ken Davis, manager of a Sam Goody store in Nashville, Tenn. "Our customers are split pretty evenly ... between urban music and country, so we had a lot of people in here all week."
Retailers contacted in Detroit, Phoenix, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Phoenix, Seattle and Columbus, Ohio, all reported busy weeks, though results were mixed from store to store.
Meanwhile, at the Tower Records in New York's Lincoln Center, Seal's Human Being was the best seller of the week, followed by Jewel's Spirit, Carey and then Houston. Method Man and Brooks came further down the official list of the week's best sellers.
Of all the places where Brooks should have done well with his much-hyped, Double Live set, one might think that record stores in Nashville, Tenn., the widely recognized capital of country music, would report strong sales of the two-disc set.
A quick sampling of stores in the area a week after its release, however, yielded some shocking news for the country crooner, but some good news for Ice Cube and Method Man.
"Ice Cube did really well, and so did Method Man," Davis said. "The Garth Brooks [CD] didn't do as well as I thought it would. It did really well, but it didn't do the outstanding business I thought it would."
Davis attributed his expectations for Brooks' album to numerous television appearances the country crooner did to promote Double Live.
"A lot of people were asking for it before it came out," Davis said, "But I can't say the same amount of people picked it up."
(SonicNet's Jennifer Elks contributed to this report.)