NEW YORK (Billboard) - U.S. music retailers are realizing a dream week with Susan Boyle's "I Dreamed A Dream" ringing cash registers far beyond expectations and Adam Lambert's album stirring sales after his sexually charged TV performance.
Label and distribution executives project that based on early sales returns at major retailers and pre-orders at direct marketers like Amazon and QVC, Boyle's album is in contention to beat this year's top debut-week seller, Eminem's "Relapse."
That record sold 608,000 units in the week ending May 24, according to Nielsen SoundScan, representing the best overall sales week for an album this year.
While projections for Boyle's album start at the 550,000 unit mark, some executives are reluctant to guess how high it will go.
If big box retailers "have stock on Black Friday, who knows how well the album can do," said one industry watcher who thinks the album will sell at least 700,000 copies this week.
Lambert's "For Your Entertainment" also is outperforming expectations despite --or perhaps because of -- his risque performance at Sunday's American Music Awards in which the gay singer kissed one male musician and pushed the head of another into his crotch.
Industry sources project "For Your Entertainment" could sell about 225,000 units in its initial week in stores.
Likewise, Lady Gaga and her three-pronged attack on consumer purses is much stronger than expected. Her new "The Fame Monster" deluxe edition and "The Fame" original version could sell a combined 150,000 records, while "The Fame Monster" EP is expected to top 200,000 units, sources said.
Estimates are based on a Tuesday release date, while this past week new releases came out a day early on Monday, due to the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Also impacting sales is the busiest shopping day of the holiday season, so-called 'Black Friday,' the day after Thanksgiving.
How well Boyle's album performs will, in part, be impacted by replenishment on shelves. Sources said many stores are on the verge of being sold out, and re-orders have been placed.
Based on past performances of hot-selling titles, the record's distributor, Sony Music Entertainment, likely will keep pace with demand but is scrambling to allocate product daily and make multiple shipments to each account.
According to Hastings Entertainment senior vice president of merchandising, Alan Van Ongevalle, the Boyle album is outperforming expectations at the chain, which has never performed well in mainstream pop albums like hers.
"Last week, John Mayer was our No. 1 record and that is in a genre we do reasonably well in, and so far in one day has done more than he sold all week," Van Ongevalle said.
QVC said it had pre-orders of more than 81,000 units, its best sales performance in 10 years, while Amazon says the album has generated its largest global pre-order in its history.
Amazon doesn't disclose numbers, but sources say its U.S. pre-order alone reached 80,000 units.
Meanwhile, Rihanna's "Rated R" is seen as an underperformer so far in its debut week. One purchasing chief called the sales level "weird," given that Rihanna has made several appearances on TV recently to promote the album and talk about last February's attack on her by ex-boyfriend, singer Chris Brown.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte