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LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Michael Jackson's first posthumous studio album is in a tight race for honors on next week's chart with reigning champ Susan Boyle and former queen Taylor Swift, according to early industry prognostications.
Jackson's "Michael" could move around 200,000 to 225,000 by week's end on Sunday, December 19. But Boyle's "The Gift" could also sell as many copies (if not more), as could Swift's "Speak Now," which is currently at No. 2. The Billboard 200 chart will be published on Wednesday.
Jackson's last release, the "This Is It" compilation soundtrack, started at No. 1 a little over a year ago with 373,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan. However, it's difficult to compare their relative sales fortunes since they are such different projects. "Michael" is a much-discussed assemblage of new recordings coming nearly a year and a half after his death, while "This is It" was essentially a greatest hits collection, released in conjunction with the popular concert documentary film.
Next week's second-biggest debut will probably come from R. Kelly's "Love Letter," which is aiming for a start around 160,000 units. A year ago, the R&B star arrived at No. 4 with "Untitled," shifting 114,000.
Diddy Dirty Money's "Last Train to Paris" might roll into the top 15 with possibly 60,000 to 70,000. Diddy last took a bow on the list back in 2006 when his "Press Play" entered at No. 1 with 170,000.
Other new albums on tap for a significant debut next week include 2010 "American Idol" runner-up Crystal Bowersox's "Farmer's Daughter" (45,000 to 50,000), Tank's "Now Or Never" (perhaps 40,000 to 45,000), and Ciara's "Basic Instinct" (30,000 to 40,000).
Bowersox's first-week will likely exceed that of the fellow she lost to: Lee DeWyze. His "Live It Up" debut started with 39,000 at No. 19 a few weeks ago. (DeWyze's set earned the smallest start for an "Idol" champ's first post-show album.)