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The new record comes at a crossroads for teenpop. With reports of weak ticket sales for their current tour, the Backstreet Boys took a break for member A.J. McLean to undergo rehab. Meanwhile, both radio and MTV appear to be cooling on the whole boy-band phenomenon.
WILL "CELEBRITY" NSYNC OR SWIM?
Or, How To Cope When A Million
Just Isn’t Enough
It will be the biggest album debut of the year, right?

There’s little doubt that NSYNC’s "Celebrity" will top the Dave Matthews Band’s "Everyday," which broke 750k on its release in February.

But even if the pop superstars go over the hoped-for million mark upon the album’s release next Tuesday (7/24), that would represent a whopping 60% drop from the 2.5 million "No Strings Attached" sold its first week back in February 2000.

The label is shipping more than four million and optimistically hoping for first-week sales between 1.5 and 2 million, but most industry insiders agree "No Strings Attached," came out at a time that "probably can’t be duplicated," with a different climate at retail and radio.

Wherehouse’s Bob Bell predicts sales "between the 1.7 million of the Backstreet Boys’ last album and the 2.5 million of ‘No Strings Attached’—and I’ve got to figure everybody would be happy with that."

"Pop," the first single/video, hasn’t received the kind of reception from radio that "Bye Bye Bye," the lead track from "No Strings Attached," did. The record shot up the airplay charts, only to plummet, suffering from quick burnout. Although "Pop" has been leading HITS’ "Requests" chart for several weeks, spins peaked at 8,000 per week, almost 33% lower than the 12,500 "Bye Bye Bye" grabbed at its peak. That is bound to affect sales for the new album.

"We have seen significant polarization in that genre of music over the last year," said KMXV Kansas City PD Jon Zellner.

B96 Chicago APD Erik Bradley was more upbeat: "‘Pop’ didn’t really call out, which wasn’t a surprise because it’s not really the best song for Top 40 on the album. The group is still white-hot. They just sold out two shows at Soldier Field. Their style of music will always have a place, as long as there are girls that love good-looking boys who sing and dance."

The new record comes at a crossroads for teenpop. With reports of weak ticket sales for their current tour, the Backstreet Boys took a break for member A.J. McLean to undergo rehab. Meanwhile, both radio and MTV appear to be cooling on the whole boy- (and girl-) band phenomenon.

Ironically, the group seems to have expanded its artistic reach on "Celebrity," which even Rolling Stone says "goes several steps further outside the proven boy-band sphere…paving a new high road for teenpop’s future."

Teen mag Bop Editor [and sometime HITS flack] Shirley Halperin, a self-described fan, said the new material is strong: "‘The Two of Us’ is awesome and should be the next single. This record’s a lot more R&B and soul than just pop."

Perhaps the biggest factor is the album’s July release date, which means much of NSYNC’s potential audience may be away for the summer.

"It’s a weird time to put out an album," concluded Halperin. "This record may not have the pageantry of the last one, but there’s still plenty of momentum. And knowing the guys, they’ll pull out all the stops."

That includes the band’s current tour, which kicked off last May, an upcoming MTV special and corporate tie-ins with Verizon, Polaroid’s I-Zone and Tower Records. Pre-orders have made the album #3 at e-tailer CDNow.

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