For the first time since Shania Twain dominated three Christmas seasons in a row with her mega-selling Come On Over, an album from the previous year has completely schooled all the 2006 releases at retail. Carrie Underwood moved a shocking 292,000 units of Some Hearts in the week before Christmas, pushing cumulative sales for the project to 4,586,750, with still one more week to be tabulated from 2006.
Try to get your head around this: Some of the biggest stars in the genre released new albums in 2006, some right before the Christmas season. Rascal Flatts, Dixie Chicks, Toby Keith, Keith Urban, Sugarland, George Strait, Dierks Bentley, Tim McGraw and Alan Jackson all hit stores with projects that have sold pretty well.
But Underwood has left them all in the dust, and she seems to be heading towards an accomplishment that has eluded all but one new artist since the Dixie Chicks: a 5x platinum certification for her debut album. The only new act to achieve that this century is Gretchen Wilson, who has since seen her career cool off dramatically. The real question at this point is, how much higher can Underwood go? Is six million a real possibility? “Before He Cheats” has been fueling sales, with her CMA wins certainly helping as well. Could she be the first Idol contestant to win Best New Artist? A well-chosen fourth single and some Grammy buzz could make Some Hearts the biggest country debut since Wide Open Spaces, though matching that 12x platinum success seems well out of reach.
Does Some Hearts have the fourth single needed to power sales through 2007? Looks like Arista is leaning towards “Wasted” as the next song to send to radio, so we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, kudos to Carrie for leading the way for country music over the last twelve months.