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? 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.