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Both Clarkson’s My December and the new Hannah Montana album will sell between 320-350k for their first week, enough to put them in a lively dead heat for top of the chart.

DUEL OF THE POP DIVAS

Clarkson-Montana Race Too Close to Call as Major Foot Traffic Is Expected
It’s a horse race between a pair of thoroughbred fillies.

Former Idol queen Kelly Clarkson vs. Hannah Montana star Miley Cyrus for the #1 spot on next week’s gala Fourth of July HITS album chart.

Clive’s well-oiled RCA Music Group machine vs. Disney’s multi-media marketing team for all the marbles.

Folks, it doesn’t get any better than that. Just make sure you don’t blow your fingers off with the cherry bombs.

So far, with early returns from eager retailers looking for some early-July fireworks, it’s way too early to make a call.

This much can be said. Both Clarkson’s My December and the new Hannah Montana album will sell between 320-350k for their first week, enough to put them in a lively dead heat for top of the chart.

Consulting the tea leaves, Clarkson is showing strengths from a pair of reporting precincts in iTunes and Best Buy. Ms. Cyrus is ahead, as expected, at mass merchants and non-traditional retail.  Both have visibility and sales at Costco and Limited II clothing stores, but Miley, of course, has the Disney Stores and JC Penney as well.

Look for plenty of foot traffic this weekend in front of the 4th of July, with observers opining Ms. Montana will take the mini-van market.

But, our cracked retail expert Mark Pearson insists, it’s way, way too close right now to make any kind of clear-cut pick.

A couple other new albums hit the streets today, including alt-country mainstay Ryan Adams’ new album, Easy Tiger, for Luke Lewis’ Nashville-based Lost Highway, which is looking like a pretty robust 50k, with #3 ranking at iTunes and Starbucks spinner visibility.

The Beastie Boys’ all-instrumental Capitol album, The Mix-Up, is being accompanied by a massive online push and a tour, and is expected to garner 30k, give or take.

Overall, at the six-month point of 2007, the market was down 7% vs. last week, down 5.2% over same week last year and now down 15% to date, marking a slight uptick in a year that has been less than impressive.

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