Michael Jackson's long-awaited Epic album, "Invincible," has been meeting or outperforming the expectations of U.S. retailers, Billboard Bulletin reports. Despite lukewarm reviews and the lack of a br

Michael Jackson's long-awaited Epic album, "Invincible," has been meeting or outperforming the expectations of U.S. retailers, Billboard Bulletin reports. Despite lukewarm reviews and the lack of a breakout hit so far, "Invincible," which came out Tuesday, has been outselling other high-profile new albums by Lenny Kravitz, Enrique Iglesias, the Backstreet Boys, and Barbra Streisand.

"Honestly, we expected Michael to flop and to come in behind both Enrique and the Backstreet Boys," says Mick Camacho, GM of Chicago's Tower Records outlet on Clark Street. "But at midnight on Monday, we sold 50-60 pieces, and all day Tuesday we sold another 60. Those aren't blockbuster units, but it's far more than we anticipated."

While predicting that "Invincible" will move more than 300,000 units its first week, retailers surveyed by Bulletin were hesitant to say that it would top the first-week numbers of his last set, 1995's "HIStory," which sold 391,000 units, according to SoundScan. Many also had doubts the set would sell well beyond the holidays. "I sincerely hope Michael will stick around, but I suspect that won't be the case," says Dave Alder, senior VP of product and marketing for Virgin Entertainment Group North America.

Robert Taylor, buyer for Hastings Books, Music & Video, says the album will have a hard time finding a lasting audience without a strong second single. "I think a lot of the early buyers are the die-hard Michael Jackson fans."

While Jackson's release is getting most of the attention, the album that has sparked the most anticipation among retailers is Kravitz's "Lenny" (Virgin). "Kravitz is a guy who supports his records for a long time," says Scott Levine, director of marketing for the Musicland Group. "This will have legs well into the spring."

The Backstreet Boys' "Chapter 1" (Jive) appears to be off to a slow start. "Backstreet Boys' numbers were actually low," says Hastings' Taylor. "Usually, greatest hits are for an older generation. The younger generation wants something new, and that's why the first-day [sales] explosion wasn't there."

With year-to-date album sales still lagging about 2%, high hopes are pinned on Britney Spears' "Britney" (Jive), due Tuesday; Streisand's "Christmas Memories" (Columbia); and Destiny's Child's "8 Days of Christmas" (Columbia). "Barbra and Destiny's Child aren't doing anything yet," says Camacho, "but after Halloween, they'll surely pick up."

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