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Backstreet Boys Are Back at No. 1 but Can't Top 'N Sync Record

November 30, 2000|ROBERT HILBURN and RANDY LEWIS | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The Backstreet Boys and their fans gave it a good try, but they still have to take the backseat to 'N Sync for the first-week album sales record.

The Boys' "Black & Blue" sold 1.59 million copies during its first week in stores, believed to be the third-highest first-week total in pop history and enough for it to enter the national album charts at No. 1 Wednesday.

But the figure fell far short of predictions that the Boys would challenge the first-week sales crown of 2.4 million copies set in March by the pop vocal group's heated rival, 'N Sync. The Boys' total last week also finished behind the 1.76 million figure of Eminem's "The Marshall Mathers LP" album in May.

"To be perfectly honest, we took our forecast down after we saw the performance of the single and the [lack of] street buzz," says Scott Levin of the Musicland chain.

"With 'N Sync's record, there was huge street buzz off the first single, but with Backstreet Boys we weren't seeing that. . . . But let's not forget that there are still less than 10 records that have ever done this [sold more than 1 million copies in the first week]. This has still been highly successful for us."

After the album's strong opening-day sales last week, one major retailer, Best Buy, projected that the collection could match the first-week figure of 'N Sync's "No Strings Attached."

Other retailers said that figure was overestimated because Best Buy is selling "Black & Blue" for the under-wholesale price of $9.99, which gave them an extra boost in sales that wouldn't materialize nationwide. That's what happened last month when Best Buy overestimated national sales for the latest Limp Bizkit album.

Now, the question is how long the Backstreet Boys will be able to hold on to the No. 1 spot in the face of the charge being made by the original teen favorite male band, the Beatles.

That Fab Four's "1," a single disc collection of 27 No. 1 singles, entered the charts last week at No. 1 after selling 595,000 copies. Though there is almost always a sales drop-off in the second week, the "1" package actually increased sales last week to 662,000.

"We're selling tons of Beatles," says Tower Records buyer Bob Feterl. "I don't think it'll probably go back to No. 1 again, but still, you've got to give Capitol credit. They've released more [Beatles] albums since the band broke up than when they were together, but except for the 'Yellow Submarine' album for some reason, every one has done great."

The Backstreet Boys' last album, "Millennium," sold 1.1 million copies during its first week in stores in May 1999 but dropped by almost half--to 622,000--in its second week. That drop-off isn't expected to be as big this time because albums often hold up better during the holiday sales season.

Other albums debuting in the top 20 this week are Tim McGraw's "Greatest Hits," which finished No. 4 with sales of 306,000; the Wu-Tang Clan's "The W," which finished No. 5 with sales of 302,000; and Erykah Badu's "Mama's Gun," which finished No. 11 with 191,000 albums sold. Mya's "Case of the Ex" continues to be the nation's best-selling single.

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