U.S. music retailers say they are realizing Susan Boyle’s dreams, as her album “I Dreamed A Dream” is blowing up way beyond sales expectations.

Label and distribution executives, meanwhile, project that based on early sales returns at the big box stores and pre-orders at direct marketers like Amazon and QVC, Boyle’s album is in contention to beat this year’s top debut-week seller, Eminem’s “Relapse.” That title scanned 608,000 units in the week ending May 24, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That week also represents the best overall sales week for an album this year.

Meanwhile, Adam Lambert’s “For Your Entertainment” is also outperforming sales expectations, despite—or perhaps because of—the risque performance he turned in at the American Music Awards on Sunday, Nov. 22. Label and distribution sources project that “For Your Entertainment” could sell about 225,000 units in its first week.

Likewise, Lady Gaga and her three-pronged sales attack on consumers’ purses is also much stronger than expected. Of the new “The Fame Monster” deluxe edition, “The Fame” original version, and “The Fame Monster” EP, also just issued, the former two combined could sell about 150,000 units while the EP is expected to top 200,000 units.

Of course, all estimates come with the caveat that sales projection models are built around a Tuesday release date, while this week new releases came out a day early on Monday, due to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

How well Boyle’s album performs will in part have to do with replenishment, as accounts reported that many stores are on the verge of being out of stock and re-orders have been placed. Based on past performances of hot-selling titles, Sony Music Entertainment likely will keep pace with demand. But it's scrambling to do so, allocating product daily and making multiple shipments this week to each account. Sony Music's ability to deliver product will be hampered by the holiday weekend, which begins Wednesday afternoon/evening.

While distribution projections for Boyle’s album start at the 550,000 mark, some executives are reluctant to guess how high it will go. If Sony can keep product rolling and if big boxes “have stock on Black Friday, who knows how well the album can do,” says one veteran prognosticator, who thinks the Boyle album will sell at least 700,000 copies this week.

Meanwhile, Adam Lambert’s shenanigans on the American Music Awards may have upset the sensibilities of viewers and gatekeepers at “Good Morning America,” which canceled his scheduled appearance on this morning's show. However, the only impact his AMA performance has had on sales seems to have been positive.

Boyle, however, is proving to be the big story of the week. According to
Hastings Entertainment senior VP of merchandising Alan Van Ongevalle, the album is outperforming the chain's expectations. The chain has never performed well in mainstream pop albums, "so it's doing extremely well for us,” he says. “Last week, John Mayer was our No. 1 record and that is in a genre we do reasonably well in, and so far in one day [Boyle] has done more than he sold all week. We are not out of stock yet on her, but we are heading that way quickly.”

Van Ongevalle adds that the chain placed a re-order before release date and that he expects to be in stock for the holiday weekend.

QVC reports that it had pre-orders of more than 81,000 units for the Boyle album, its best sales performance in ten years, while Amazon says the album has generated its largest global pre-order in its history. Amazon doesn't disclose numbers, but sources say its U.S. pre-order alone reached 80,000 units.

Meanwhile, Rihanna’s “Rated R” is said to be underperforming expectations so far in its debut week, “which is weird because she is on television everywhere talking about Chris Brown and a lot of teenagers are looking up to her,” says the head of purchasing at a wholesale account.

But others point out that Rihanna usually doesn’t have a big first week on a new release. “Good Girl Gone Bad,” her best-selling title with 2.5 million units, according to Nielsen Soundscan, tallied 162,000 units in its debut week for the period ended June 10, 2007. That’s in line with current projections for “Rated R,” as provided to Billboard by major label sales and distribution executives.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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