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LAVIGNE LA VIDA LOCA
Avril’s Skin Crawling to #1;
Can’t Mask Slipknot’s Big Numbers
According to early reports from national accounts, Avril Lavigne’s sophomore album, Under My Skin (Arista/RMG), is on track to sell over 350k in its first week of release, giving the Canadian sk8r singer/songwriter a big #1 debut on next week’s chart.

That 350k figure could easily move closer to 400k before the week’s over, but whether it will actually reach that mark or not can only be answered by the upcoming Memorial Day weekend—but more on that later.

Notably, among her other promotional activities, Lavigne performed live on AOL's "Broadband Rocks" on Monday. According to AOL, 20 milllion people have seen her on their system's "welcome screen" in last two days, while nearly one million have streamed her new music from AOL Music in the last week. That's gotta help.

Also hitting the streets yesterday was Slipknot’s Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses) (Roadrunner/IDJ). Early retail intelligence (is that an oxymoron?) indicates the ’Knot won’t tie Avril (get it?), but will be an easy #2. First-day sales point to a higher first-week total than the band’s last album, which did 255k, but at this point it looks like Vol. 3 will probably sell just under the 300k mark.

These two major chart debuts mean Usher will see his torrid eight-week run at #1 come to a close, but the R&B sensation’s smash Confessions (LaFace/ZLG) will easily take the #3 chart berth.

Interestingly, Lavigne's upcoming #1 bow means that one L.A. Reid-developed act (Lavigne) will be taking the place of another (Usher). Combine that with OutKast's ongoing roll, and the current Island Def Jam chief would be having a helluva year at Arista.

As for Memorial day, our white-coated retail technicians with the clipboards and pocket protectors remind us that, as holiday weekends go, Memorial Day isn’t usually a particularly exciting one. The holiday itself, coming on Monday, will not count in the current sales week, and the weekend days preceding don’t tend to stimulate a lot of music sales except in places like Wal-Mart, where people buying new barbecues and such tend to buy Country or Pop titles. Throw in some nasty-looking weather in key parts of the nation, and it doesn’t appear that the weekend will have much of a positive impact, though you never know. Or, at least, we never know.

One last thing: For the sake of comparison, the just-released Lord of the Rings: Return of the King DVD is selling in less than a day what we expect the #1 album to do in an entire week.
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