Will Adele's upcoming album be a major sales performer?

Adele's new album '25' will be released on Nov. 20. Experts predict big sales, but can it measure up to albums from the pre-Napster, pre-iTunes era?

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
Adele performs during the 2013 Oscars.

Adele’s new album, “25,” arrives on Nov. 20. Just how major a performer will it be in terms of sales?

Adele’s smash hit album “21,” her previous work, became the highest-selling album of both 2011 and 2012 in the US. In 2011, the second-best-selling album of the year, Michael Buble’s “Christmas,” sold less than half what "21" did. In 2012, Taylor Swift’s “Red” wasn’t as far behind “21” as Buble’s album had been, but Adele’s work still outsold Swift’s by more than a million.

So how many albums of “25” will sell? Some industry watchers are guessing “25” will sell between 1.5 and 2 million albums in the first week it’s out. By comparison, other big sellers this year like Drake’s “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” and The Weeknd’s “Beauty Behind the Madness” sold 495,000 copies and 326,000 copies, respectively, in their first weeks. (Another work by Drake, his collaboration with Future titled "What a Time to Be Alive," sold well in its first week also, with 334,000 albums sold in the first week.) A bit further back, 1.3 million copies of Swift’s “1989” sold during its first week in 2014.

Adele’s possible sales numbers are big enough that they harken back to a different music era. Some of the artists whose albums sold the most copies during their debut week are boy bands NSYNC and Backstreet Boys as well as rapper Eminem and singer Britney Spears. Their high sales figures reflect both their popularity at the time and how different music consumers’ choices were at the time.

NSYNC’s “No Strings Attached” sold more than 2 million copies in its first week and still holds the record for the biggest release-week sales, but that was in 2000, when the music-sharing program Napster was becoming popular. The other top five best-selling release week albums all came out in 2000 and 2001. Swift’s 2012 album “Red” is the highest-ranked newer album on the list, and it sold more than 1.2 million, more than a million less than NSYNC’s “Strings.”

Can Adele bring the early-2000s sales numbers back to the music business? 

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