As fourth quarter brings its annual bounty of superstar releases (just in time for the busy holiday shopping season), three songs help usher in this year's onslaught, as Taylor Swift, Ke$ha and Rihanna are set to enter next week's Billboard Hot 100 with new singles.
Swift serves up "Begin Again," the second single from her fourth studio album "Red," due Oct. 22. (Lead track "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" became her first Hot 100 No. 1, leading the list for three weeks.) Ke$ha's "Die Young" previews her sophomore full-length, "Warrior," due Dec. 4, while Rihanna's "Diamonds" introduces her seventh set, due this fall.
Industry sources say that Swift's "Begin" could sell 300,000 downloads or more by the end of the tracking week on Sunday (Sept. 30). Ke$ha's "Young" could start with more than 200,000, as could Rihanna's "Diamonds." Predicting the latter song's sales is a bit harder for industry forecasters than the first two, as it was released on a Wednesday instead of Tuesday (the more common label practice). "Diamonds," thus, will launch on next week's Hot 100 and Digital Songs charts with one day less of a sales sum than its competitors.
By comparison, Rihanna's "We Found Love," the first single from her last studio album, "Talk That Talk," bowed at No. 7 on Digital Songs (Oct. 8, 2011) with 117,000 sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan. (That song hit retail on a Thursday). "Found" then built steadily in weekly sales, reaching No. 1 on Digital Songs four weeks later. One week after that, it began its 10-week rule on the Hot 100.
As for Ke$ha, the last time she introduced a brand new single to the market was late 2010 with "We R Who We R," the lead track from her "Cannibal" EP. "We R" crashed Digital Songs at No. 1 (Nov. 13, 2010) with 280,000 sold and simultaneously debuted at No. 1 on the Hot 100.
Swift, meanwhile, already experienced the buzz of a first single from her forthcoming album, as "Never" soared to No. 1 on the Hot 100 (from an airplay-only-fueled No. 72 debut) fueled by 623,000 downloads sold in its first week, according to SoundScan. The arrival set the record for the highest one-week digital sales total by a female artist.
RADIO'S ALSO READY
Swift, Ke$ha and Rihanna's new songs are also receiving warm welcomes at radio.
As of this posting, "Begin," Swift's new country (but not pop) radio single, already ranks at No. 39 on the building Country Songs chart with 2 million in first-week audience, according to Nielsen BDS. (While "Never" falls 15-21 on the building country list, the song remains gaining on the all-format Radio Songs building chart at No. 3, thanks to continued rising pop and adult crossover support.)
Rihanna's "Diamonds" is already shining extremely brightly on the building Radio Songs chart, showing at No. 6 with 22 million in all-format audience, according to BDS. Its first-day airplay was aided by promotional airplay on participating pop, rhythm and adult pop Clear Channel Media and Entertainment stations, so, following that initial splash, it isn't likely to maintain a top five rank when the Radio Songs chart is finalized next Wednesday (Oct. 3). It will still, however, make a grand entrance on the survey.
Ke$ha's "Young," meanwhile, is trending at No. 64 on the building Radio Songs chart with 6 million in audience. (Swift's "Begin" is not yet showing among the top 100 titles on the building Radio Songs survey.)
PREDICTING THE HOT 100
How high can Swift, Rihanna and Ke$ha's new singles launch on the Hot 100 next week? And, will any of them be strong enough to compete for No. 1?
Maroon 5's "One More Night" has spent the past two weeks at No. 1, while PSY's "Gangnam Style" blasts 11-2 this week, powered by a 4-1 coronation on Digital Songs (301,000 downloads sold, up 60%, according to SoundScan). With "Gangnam" expected to sell 275,000-300,000 by the end of the sales tracking week, and it trending at No. 32 on the building Radio Songs chart, it would seem that "Night" (205,000 sold this past week and showing at No. 2 on Radio Songs so far this week) and "Gangnam" will battle for the Hot 100's top spot next week.
Most likely, Swift's "Begin" will begin in the Hot 100's top 10, with Rihanna's "Diamonds" and Ke$ha's "Young" arriving in the top 20.
Highlights of the refreshed Hot 100, Digital Songs and Radio Songs charts will post on Wednesday (Oct. 3) on Billboard.com, with the Hot 100 to be unveiled in its entirety the following day.