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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rap singer Eminem's first studio album in four years focuses more on his drug problems than rants against celebrities and relatives, but the newfound introspection is not expected to block his rise up the charts.
"Relapse" was released worldwide this week and is likely to debut at No. 1 on the U.S. pop charts next week, as have the 36-year-old hip hop star's previous four albums.
Trade publication Billboard said "Relapse" could sell as many as 650,000 copies across the United States in its first week, making it the biggest debut so far this year. Final data will be released next Wednesday.
But the estimated sales pale against those of his previous releases, a result of the recorded-music industry's decline.
His previous studio album, 2004's "Encore," sold 711,000 copies in its first week. His best performer was his second album, "The Marshall Mathers LP," which opened with sales of almost 1.8 million copies in 2000.
While Eminem's albums have skewered other singers such as Britney Spears, Moby and Mariah Carey as well as his mother and ex-wife, "Relapse" deals more with his drug addictions, overdoses, depression and stints in and out of rehabilitation.
"It's no secret I had a drug problem, I just don't think my fans knew how bad it was," Eminem, who has kept a low profile at his Detroit-area home in recent years, wrote in an article for the hip-hop magazine Vibe.
"If I was to give you a number of (painkiller) Vicodin I would actually take in a day? Anywhere between 10 and 20. Valium, Ambien, the numbers got so high I don't even know what I was taking," he wrote of his penchant for the common tranquilizers.
His new album has generally won favorable reviews in U.S. publications.
"If you hate Em, he probably wouldn't blame you. But 'Relapse' is reason to be glad he's still around," Rolling Stone magazine wrote in a review that gave the album four out of a possible five stars.
The Los Angeles Times said Eminem had made a dark, drug album that was "packed with images of its maker bingeing on brand-name pharmaceuticals." The singer also has managed to raise his daughter while battling drugs.
But Eminem cannot completely restrain himself from firing off a few broadsides, with the first single "We Made You" ridiculing celebrities Kim Kardashian and Jessica Simpson, as well as drug-plagued singer Amy Winehouse.
Carey's husband, actor and rapper Nick Cannon, publicly criticized Eminem for calling his wife a "whore" in the song "Bagpipes from Baghdad." Eminem told BBC radio the lyrics were "a little harsh," and wished the couple "the best."
Editing by Dean Goodman and Paul Simao