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The year’s record for biggest album debut belongs to Justin Bieber

2012 MuchMusic Video Awards - Arrivals

2012 MuchMusic Video Awards - Arrivals

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Updated: July 29, 2012 5:06PM

Can grown-up Justin Bieber still sway the masses? Believe it.

The pop sensation, who turned 18 in March, tops the Billboard chart for the fourth time after selling 374,000 copies of “Believe,” the year’s biggest debut, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

It’s his best sales week, eclipsing the 291,000 copies logged by “My World 2.0” for its second week in April 2010. And it nearly tripled sales of last week’s chart-topping “Looking 4 Myself” by Usher, Bieber’s mentor.

It’s not the year’s biggest week overall. That belongs to Adele’s “21,” which sold 730,000 copies the week after her Grammy Awards wins.

Considering the difficult climate for album sales, Bieber’s mark “is a very robust number,” says Keith Caulfield, Billboard’s associate director of charts. “That Bieber can have the biggest opening week of the year says that he’s doing a good job. It’s always tough making that transition from tweeny-teeny pop star to young adult. It’s a challenge, and he seems to be doing quite well so far.”

Bieber’s total falls below initial projections of 410,000 to 440,000, based on enormous first-day sales and pre-orders. Those predictions were scaled back by Sunday.

“I don’t think he’s underperforming,” says Dave Bakula, senior vice president of entertainment analytics for Nielsen. “This is a great start. He’s never been one of those artists who goes out with a record-breaking first week. He sells week after week. As in the past, his success will be told by the longevity of this record. This may be the record we’re talking about when the holidays roll around.”

“My World 2.0” opened with 283,000 copies “when Bieber was massive,” he says. “He’s grown that fan base. It’s impossible to tell exactly who’s buying the new record, but it’s got a more mature sound and new fans might be at play. It’s challenging. Look at other acts in that demographic who had fan bases that didn’t grow or go with them.”

The heavily promoted “Believe” is the teen idol’s bid for adult status, though it’s uncertain if older fans are buying the album or Bieber’s reinvention.

“I’d venture to guess that the single ‘Boyfriend’ has gained him fans he didn’t have previously,” Caulfield says. “It’s more mature. It’s been embraced by radio stations, while none of his previous singles have been, and that’s helping him find a wider audience that’s a bit older.

“ ‘Boyfriend’ is his biggest single ever. People thought it would do well in sales, but radio made it a hit.”

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