Although Rihanna has piled up a mountain of No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart -- 12 of them to be exact -- a No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 still eludes her.
That may change next week, as her seventh studio release, "Unapologetic," has a very good chance at debuting at No. 1. Industry sources say the SRP/Def Jam album (released on Monday, Nov. 19) should sell between 225,000 and 250,000 by the end of the tracking week on Sunday, Nov. 25.
With the Thanksgiving holiday (Thursday, Nov. 22) and Black Friday promotions impacting the week, it's especially difficult to forecast music sales. While no other new release seems likely to sell more than "Unapologetic," anything is possible.
No matter where Rihanna finishes the week with "Unapologetic," it seems certain that it will earn the singer her best sales week ever. So far, her best frame came when 2010's "Loud" launched at No. 3 with 207,000.
A year ago next week, Michael Buble's "Christmas" rose to No. 1 for the first time, selling 227,000 (up from 165,000 the week previous, according to Nielsen SoundScan) after the turkey holiday. While Buble isn't in the picture this year, there's another Christmas album that has an outside chance at blocking Rihanna from the top: Rod Stewart's "Merry Christmas, Baby." It's unlikely that Stewart will jump to No. 1, but the busy shopping weekend could produce many surprises, so stay tuned. "Merry Christmas, Baby" is currently at No. 6 on the chart, having sold 80,000 last week.
Also a wild card in the mix is Taylor Swift's blockbuster "Red" album, which fell from the No. 1 slot this week after three straight frames atop the list. It sold 145,000 last week. Never doubt the power of Swift and her allure at big box retailers on Black Friday.
Aside from Rihanna, there are a number of other new releases headed for big debuts next week: Kid Rock's "Rebel Soul" might start with 165,000 or so and Phillip Phillips' "The World From the Side of the Moon" is heading for a 150,000-unit bow.
Led Zeppelin's 2007 live reunion concert album/video "Celebration Day" -- its first release of new recordings in decades -- may move 100,000. That number could be in flux though, since Led Zep will likely be a highly attractive holiday gift to many shoppers.