Justin Bieber's "Believe" crashes in at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, selling 374,000 in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It garners the 18-year-old his fourth No. 1 album in the two-and-a-half years since he first bowed on the tally in December 2009. No other act has racked up that many chart-toppers in that span of time.
"Believe" registers the biggest debut sales week for an album this year, surpassing the 359,000 start of Madonna's "MDNA." The last set to earn a larger launch was Drake's "Take Care" on Dec. 3, 2011. It started with 631,000.
(Adele earned the best sales frame overall in 2012 for an album with blockbuster set "21" in the wake of her multiple Grammy Award wins in February. It sold 730,000 in the week after the Grammy show.)
Bieber also notches his own personal best sales week, beating the 291,000 that "My World 2.0" sold in its second week in April 2010.
Some might say that "Believe's" launch is a bit softer than had been anticipated, especially when the number 500,000 was bandied about the day "Believe" arrived. On its first day of release (June 19), some industry sources thought the set - based on how well it was doing out of the box - could approach the half-million mark. However, by the next day, prognosticators estimated it would launch with 410,000-440,000. That figure was scaled back to 390,000-410,000 by June 22 and then down to 360,000-380,000 by June 24. Basically: "Believe's" original forecast was inflated by the set's huge first-day sales and significant number of preorders. Everything came back down to earth midway through the week, after its eye-popping first day.
Bieber previously led the Billboard 200 with "My World 2.0," 2011's "Never Say Never: The Remixes and Under the Mistletoe." "Believe" is his sixth top 10 effort overall - he's only missed the No. 1 rung with his "My World" debut (No. 5) and "My Worlds Acoustic" (No. 7).
"Believe" was led by the hit single "Boyfriend," which debuted and peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The set's second official single is "As Long As You Love Me," and its radio promotion will begin July 9.
During release week, Bieber was in full-on promotion mode to tout the new album. NBC aired a two-night special dedicated to the star (June 20-21), while he also sat down for a live YouTube chat with NBC personality Jimmy Fallon (June 21). He stopped by MTV on June 19 for a "TRL"-style "Bieber Live" show and visited CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman," BET's "106 & Park" and ABC's "The View" (all on June 20).
'Welcome' to a no. 1: At No. 2 this week on the Billboard 200, country king Kenny Chesney bows with "Welcome to the Fishbowl," moving 193,000 copies. It's his best sales week since 2007's "Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates" started with 387,000 at No. 3. The country star's last album, 2010's "Hemingway's Whiskey," debuted with 183,000 at No. 1. All told, "Welcome to the Fishbowl" marks his 10th top 10 album on the Billboard 200. On the Top Country Albums chart, the new effort enters at No. 1 - his 11th leader on that tally.
The new album's first single, "Feel Like a Rock Star," missed the top 10 on the Hot Country Songs chart, topping out at No. 11. The superstar duet with Tim McGraw got off to a fast start, debuting at No. 13 on the tally (the second-highest bow since the chart began using Nielsen BDS data in 1990). It climbed to No. 11 in its sixth week on the list and then dove to No. 18 on June 2 - the same week Chesney's solo cut "Come Over" bowed at No. 24. While "Feel Like a Rock Star" operated like a quickie superstar event single, "Come Over" is performing like a traditional hit. This week, it rises 10-6.
'21' Direction: Adele's "21" falls out of the top five for only the second time in its 70 weeks on the chart, as it drops 3-7 with nearly 47,000 (down 24%). Its lone other non-top-five week was on Dec. 10, 2011. Meanwhile, One Direction's "Up All Night" descends two spots to No. 8 with 41,000, marking the album's 15th straight week in the top 10 (its entire chart run). The last set to spend its first 15 frames in the top 10? Adele's "21." Previous to Adele, Taylor Swift's "Speak Now" racked its first 15 weeks in the top 10 between Nov. 13, 2010, and Feb. 19, 2011.
linkin park 'LIVING' LARGE? Early prognostications from those wise industry sources suggest that Linkin Park will claim its fifth No. 1 on the Billboard 200 next week with "Living Things." The set may sell around 220,000. Maroon 5's newest, "Overexposed," will likely start in the runner-up slot, with perhaps 190,000-210,000.••••