Alicia Keys' new album, "Girl On Fire," is set to earn the highest debut next week on the Billboard 200 chart -- and with a likely No. 1 bow. But Rod Stewart's "Merry Christmas, Baby" might spoil her party with a post-Thanksgiving sales surge.
Industry sources suggest Keys' set, which hit retailers on Nov. 27, might sell between 145,000 and 170,000 by the end of the tracking week on Dec. 2. It was the only major new release this past week that will sell a number that large. Standing in Keys' way is Stewart's first holiday set, which sold 117,000 last week, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
As we've seen in the past, Christmas album sales grow larger in the weeks following Thanksgiving, and Stewart's release should be no exception. In 2011, in the week after Thanksgiving, Michael Buble's then-new "Christmas" album spent its second week at No. 1, selling 293,000 (up 29%).
Though Stewart's "Merry Christmas, Baby" isn't performing as strongly as Buble's set, don't rule anything out.
If Keys does bow atop the Billboard 200, it will mark her fifth No. 1. Her first four releases (three studio sets and a live album) all bowed in the penthouse between 2001 and 2007. Her last album, 2009's "The Element of Freedom," launched at No. 2 with 417,000. It was released Dec. 15 of that year, and was stuck in the runner-up slot behind Susan Boyle's "I Dreamed a Dream," which was then in its fourth week at No. 1 (with 661,000).