Carrie Underwood, Apparently Playing In Peoria

carrieTrade rag Hits is projecting a No. 1 debut for Carrie Underwood’s third album Play On, which came out yesterday. The magazine is claiming that between 300,000 and 350,000 copies of Play On will be moved during the record’s first week on store shelves—a total that would make the album one of the stronger-debuting releases of 2009. Which is, I have to say, kind of strange, given something I noticed while shopping for sundries last night!

I always like using my trips to the local Target as excuses to check out the music section—it’s one of two places to buy CDs in the attached mall’s environs (the other: Hot Topic), and it’s fun to get a bead on what may or may not be selling, as well as what may (or may not!) be in stock. Last night one display at the end of a row in particular made me do a double-take, as it had a couple of copies of Weezer’s Raditude (only $9.99!), a big hole where the Glee tie-in CDs were supposed to be, and a lot of copies of Play On. Like, two rows of the endcap, as opposed to a single shelf for the Weezer record. (I wish I’d taken a picture)

Now this could all be due to the fact that I live in the decadent Northeast, where people want to make Snuggie jokes and sing along with glee-club types more than they want to honor a Grand Ole Opry member, and Target’s one-size-fits-all merchandising plan just didn’t work out when it came to this particular album. Maybe it’s merely a sign that 350,000 isn’t that big of a number when you factor in how many people there are in this country. Maybe Target’s buyers just overshot a tad, given that Underwood’s last release, Carnival Ride, moved 528,000 units in its first week on shelves a couple of years back.

Or could the more casual pop-country fans out there have already moved on to Taylor Swift? I don’t think I’m wrong in noting that the buzz around this record has been fairly muted, despite the “Before He Cheats”-channeling first single “Cowboy Casanova” and Underwood getting the returning-hero treatment in USA Today. And it probably doesn’t hurt to note that there were no copies of the Fearless reissue anywhere to be seen. Hm!

Earlier: Jay-Z’s First-Week Sales: Not Quite Eminem-Level, But Not Bad By Any Stretch

  • Chris Molanphy

    If I were to refine your theory, I’d say that basically, Underwood has now matured into being a Reba-like country act, rather than a pop-country crossover act. As you imply, that’s Swift’s racket now.

    When Carnival Ride came out in November 2007, Underwood was coming off of her biggest pop-crossover smash, “Before He Cheats,” which IIRC correctly had just fallen off the Hot 100 not weeks before after a near-record-setting run. So when that sophomore album dropped, she had not only the loyal Nashville audience buying her but also a sizable urban audience willing to give an album of hers a try. (As I often say: first-week sales of any album are always a referendum on how the last album did.)

    So, Play On will have a weaker first week not only because it’s 2009 now and the sales bar is lower, and not only because the leadoff singles are a little weaker, but because Carnival Ride wasn’t that strong an album in a pop sense and didn’t produce any serious pop-crossover hits. Which leaves her with a Nashville audience that loves her, and that’s it. That’s not a bad way to make a career that could last her another 20 years, but it will make her future sales numbers, especially in week one, less spectacular.

  • mssoonermagic

    If she is selling alot of albums, they’ll be re-stocking those albums. Since hers are selling they’ll keep re-stocking.