Since Adele's last album 21 sold more than 11 million copies, the British superstar has done almost nothing in the music business — she canceled a U.S. tour due to vocal-cord problems, avoided Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, gave no interviews in three years and largely stayed home to raise her baby. Yet retailers say her upcoming 25 is likely to sell 1 million copies in its first week — making it the first album to do so since the much-busier Taylor Swift sold nearly 1.3 million of 1989 about a year ago. "Adele has a wider range and wider demographic than Taylor does," says Ish Cuebas, vice president for music merchandising at record chain FYE. "She crosses over. I would never bet against her."
Billboard's sales prediction is 1.3 million to 1.8 million, and Cuebas suggests it could break the 2 million barrier, something nobody has done in the damaged record business since 'NSYNC sold 2.4 million copies of No Strings Attached in 2000. Her first single, "Hello," came out October 22nd and sold a record-breaking 1.1 million downloads; it has racked up 236 million YouTube views and 73 million Spotify streams.
"I don't think there's any question that it comes out of the gate really, really, really big," says Carl Mello, senior buyer for New England music chain Newbury Comics. "Whether it ends up having the consistent week-to-week craziness that the last album did definitely remains to be seen. But if anybody can do 1 million [in its first week], it's Adele."
Reps for Adele, including her manager, Jonathan Dickins, declined to return inquiries for this story. In a new Rolling Stone cover story, the singer suggested her unexpected worldwide sales for 21, which opened with a relatively modest 352,000 in the album's first week in 2011, catapulted her to an uncomfortable level of fame.
"People think I hate being famous," she said. "And I don't. I'm really frightened of it. I think it's really toxic, and I think it's really easy to be dragged into it." (Adele told Rolling Stone her voice is stronger than ever but she hasn't decided yet whether to do a major tour, aside from a few early television performances.)
As the record industry continues its shift from CD and download sales to streaming, it's unclear whether Adele can replicate the unusual resilience of 21, which seemed to keep selling and selling. Target will have an exclusive deluxe edition, containing three bonus tracks, and FYE's Cuebas predicts 25 will have its greatest early sales via Target and iTunes. Either way, retailers expect 25 to draw people into stores for a relatively strong pre-Christmas album-release season, including new Justin Bieber and One Direction titles both coming out November 13th. "It looks all right to me," Newbury's Mello says of the release schedule. "I'm excited about selling thousands and thousands of Adele records."