Madonna's 12th studio album, "MDNA," is on course to easily debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart next week. Industry sources suggest the set could sell between 300,000 to 350,000 copies by the end of the tracking week on Sunday, April 1.
If "MDNA" lands atop the list, it will mark the queen of pop's eighth No. 1 album and her fifth consecutive studio set to debut in the penthouse. Her last studio album, 2008's "Hard Candy," started at No. 1 with 280,000 sold according to Nielsen SoundScan.
The new Billboard 200 chart's top 10 will be revealed on the morning of Wednesday, April 4.
Madonna's first No. 1 came on the Billboard 200 chart dated Feb. 9, 1985, when her second album, "Like a Virgin," began a three-week run at the top.
"MDNA's" first week will be bolstered by a successful album sales promotion involving Madonna's upcoming world tour. U.S. customers who bought a concert ticket also had the option of also receiving "MDNA" as part of their purchase. The only sales that will count towards Billboard's charts are those where the customer opted to receive the album.
This sort of ticket/album promotion has been used in the recent past by such acts as Bon Jovi and Tom Petty. The latter's "Mojo" album saw a No. 2 debut on July 3, 2010 -- thanks to a fair number of customers who got the album via a ticket purchase. The same goes for Bon Jovi's 2007 No. 1 album "Lost Highway."
Switching gears away from Madonna for a moment. She won't be the only big news on the Billboard 200 next week.
Lionel Richie is poised to notch his best sales week since SoundScan started tracking sales in 1991 and his highest charting album since 1986.
His country collaborations album "Tuskegee" is looking at a No. 2 debut with maybe 125,000 to 150,000 sold. The album collects many of Richie's best-known hits, but he has re-recorded them with an army of country stars. Among the luminaries: Shania Twain ("Endless Love"), Blake Shelton ("You Are"), Kenny Chesney ("My Love") and Tim McGraw ("Sail On").
Richie is also benefitting from a partnership with the Home Shopping Network (HSN), where the singer appeared during an hour-long special on March 16. Universal Music Group, Richie's record company, says he sold 20,000 "Tuskegee" albums during the show. (Those sales will count towards the album's debut week, as they were not fulfilled to the customer until this week.)
Here's a flashback for you. When was the last time Madonna and Richie were in the top five at the same time on the Billboard 200? Way back on Oct. 4, 1986, when "Dancing on the Ceiling" was No. 1 for a second week and Madonna's former No. 1, "True Blue," was No. 5.