Breathing down Audioslave's neck is Common, who is presently trending at just under 250k, as the Kanye West production is far outpacing forecasts.

ONE-DAY SALES: AUDIOSLAVE AND COMMON FACE OFF, WITH SYSTEM AS THE WILD CARD

Gorillaz, Alkaline Trio and The Longest Yard Also Developing Stories
As ’Slaves to sales stats, we know that close races for #1 are not unCommon this year (see what we just did?), and this week is no exception, as a three-way fight could be shaping up.

In the early lead is the debuting Audioslave, whose Out of Exile (Epic/Interscope) is heading for a first-week total north of 250k. But breathing down the collective neck of the Rage/Soundgarden spin-off is erudite rapper Common, whose Geffen release Be is presently trending at just under 250k, as the Kanye West production is far outpacing forecasts at this point.

The X factor in this potential race is this week’s sales champ, System of a Down (Columbia), who have a shot at retaining the top spot if the second-week drop-off is less than the typical 50%. Doing the math for you, a drop of 50% would put SOAD at 232.5k, which is not far off the pace. And considering that things could change dramatically over the course of the week, this one could go down to the wire.

Virgin needs a hit, and it looks like the label has one in the second album from Gorillaz, who have a very good shot at hitting the 100k mark, as Apple continues to hammer the roller-skating iPod spot featuring the single “Feel Good Inc.”

Packed together one level down from Gorillaz are Young Gunz (Def Jam/IDJ), Seether (Wind-up) and Marquez Houston (Universal), all of whom are heading toward the 75k neighborhood.

Another big story is the Alkaline Trio, who could surpass 60k as the band’s ultra-hip label Vagrant is on pace to have its biggest year ever.

Early reports from retail have Universal’s star-studded (Eminem, D-12, Nelly, etc.) soundtrack to The Longest Yard trending toward 40-50k, but with the movie opening this weekend, the album could certainly go higher.

And now for the big picture. Music sales are up 4.22% vs. last week (10.67 million compared to 10.23 million a week ago) but up 3.22% over the same week in 2004 (in which 10.33 million units changed hands). The year-to-date total of 21.53 million is 8.56% lower than 2004 sales to this point. That still sucks, but at least it’s now sucking in single digits.

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