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What does Britney's 'Womanizer' mean for 'Circus'? Not much

October 15, 2008 |  4:31 pm

Spears_300 Britney is back!

That was the buzz this morning after her "Womanizer" shot to No. 1 on Billboard's singles chart. The single sets the table for her "Circus," which is due in time for holiday sales on Dec. 2.

After it sold 286,000 digital downloads, "Womanizer" bolted from No. 96 straight to the pole position and narrowly bested a previous first-week sales record for a female artist. In the pre-"Womanizer" era, the record holder was none other than Mariah Carey, whose "Touch My Body" had sold only about 200 tracks less than "Womanizer" in its opening week. 

This post isn't going to dispute the impressive figure posted by "Womanizer," nor is it going to review the track. Instead, it will ask what "Womanizer" might foretell about the first week sales of "Circus."

About one year ago, Spears released "Gimme More" in advance of her "Blackout." The former racked-up impressive first-week numbers as well, selling 179,000 digital copies when it was made available. Though that's significantly less than "Womanizer," it was no small feat, because Spears was releasing the song after an embarrassing performance at the MTV VMAs and wasn't doing much, if anything, in the way of promoting the song. Unless, of course, you count countless unscripted appearances on TMZ.com as promoting a record.

"Womanizer," however, was treated as a news event. MTV has done its part, applauding and rewarding the artist for avoiding any major scandals in recent months, and then ABC got in on the action, showing the video on its Friday night news magazine program "20/20."

Such television promos are not new for ABC -- it gave Miley Cyrus' "7 Things" a red carpet roll-out as well. (Wait, scratch that. Miley's cut debuted during a Saturday night airing of "The Haunted Mansion," and an Eddie Murphy movie probably doesn't have the same news clout as "20/20.") Nevertheless, it's fair to say that any song given such prime-time treatment should be racking up the digital sales, and "Womanizer" is hyped as the comeback that "Gimme More" should have been.

When "Blackout" was released last year in late October, it landed at No. 2, besting most expectations. But it soon tumbled down the chart after selling 290,000 copies in its first week.

It's a safe bet that "Circus" will debut with an even higher first-week number. Since Spears appeared on the CBS show "How I Met Your Mother" last year, there's been nothing but goodwill streaming toward her. Additionally, the December release date will spur last-minute sales, and the promise that Spears is healthy and ready to tour will mean fans will be investing in an album that will actually be supported by the artist.

But that's not guaranteed. Madonna sold smashingly well with her "4 Minutes" when it was released earlier this year, bringing in 217,000 download sales. But "Hard Candy" arrived at only 280,000 copies, which was even less than "Blackout."

The news was better for Carey. After "Touch My Body" sold 286,000 copies, her "E=MC2" moved 463,000 copies, one of 2008's better debuts. But there have been artists who have sold even more digital singles than "Touch My Body," and if you keep looking up the chart, the news isn't all good.

Perhaps, although Pop & Hiss believes it unlikely, Spears will go the way of Flo Rida. His single "Low" featuring T-Pain is hailed as one of the best-selling digital tracks of all time, and had shifted 3.4 million copies by the time he released his "Mail on Sunday" earlier this year. He also had another high-charting single in "Elevator" featuring Timbaland, but "Mail on Sunday" could only muster 86,000 sales when it was released in March.

So where will "Circus" fall? Can it top Carey's 463,000 units? Will it sell a more mild, Madonna-like figure? Or will Spears soon disappear the way of Flo Rida?

--Todd Martens

Photo: Associated Press