Britney Spears hasn't released an album in four years, and the press she's been getting in recent months isn't the kind of publicity musicians typically welcome — ever.
Her child-custody battle with ex-hubby Kevin Federline has been making the front pages of tabloids the world over for weeks, and
her much-ballyhooed opening performance at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards was ridiculed and analyzed, ad nauseam, by media pundits and music critics who all but said her career was dead in the water.
As far as pre-release promotion is concerned, she's done virtually nothing to get the word out about her new LP — no high-profile television interviews, no press (save an erratic interview on Ryan Seacrest's radio morning show Wednesday), no late-night talk-show performances, no live gigs. Yet Spears' Blackout is still poised to open at #1 on next week's Billboard albums chart, despite all of the chips seemingly being stacked against her.
Britney's back, bitch — and in a big way. According to SoundScan's earliest sales projections, it appears Spears' latest could rack up more than 330,000 in week-one sales. That estimate is based on first-day sales figures, which were submitted by the eight major retail chains that report to the Nielsen SoundScan Building Charts.
A publicist for Spears' label, Jive Records, said that, as a practice, the label doesn't customarily reveal first-day sales figures, since they can often vary and be flat-out erroneous.
"We're looking positively at a Britney #1," said Jessica Letkemann, editor of Billboard.com. "At this point, we're talking about first-day sales, and based on her first-day sales, it's sold 124,000, which is pretty comprehensive, but not completely. The next nearest person behind that is current chart-topper Carrie Underwood, and that was 49,000 [in sales for her latest, Carnival Ride], so Britney's first day was more than twice that of her nearest competitor, on that one day. What the chart is telling us, or is indicating, is it looks pretty good for Blackout to be #1 on the Billboard top 200 next week."
According to Letkemann, it's impossible to know why any artist sells more records than another, but she points out that the album's first single, "Gimme More," was well-received. "In this case for sure, the numbers seem to be speaking for themselves," she said. "I can't guess why, but people seem to want to hear her music. That's just what the numbers seem to say. It's music people are interested in."
Before Blackout's release, all four of Britney's previous studio outings opened at #1, meaning Spears could make it five in a row next week.
Of course, if she does enter the chart on top, Spears' victory will be even sweeter, considering the competition she's facing. The Backstreet Boys' first new release in two years, Unbreakable, also hit stores on Tuesday, along with the self-titled follow-up to Avenged Sevenfold's highly successful 2005 release, City of Evil, and the Eagles' Long Road Out of Eden, a double-disc set that's available exclusively at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club locations. It's the band's first offering since 1994's live Hell Freezes Over LP.
Does Letkemann anticipate any surprise upsets on November 7, when the latest SoundScan totals will be released? Could a band like the Eagles rain on Britney's parade? "I would be surprised, because by all of our accounts, it looks really, really strong for Britney," she explained. "If you look back to what the Eagles did last time, their first-week sales last time were 267,000, and Britney's already looking like she'll do between 300,000 and 350,000. Who knows, though?"