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Beyonce’s Surprise Release Battling Garth Brooks for No. 1 on Billboard 200

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By Silvio Pietroluongo,

After a stealth Thursday evening (9 p.m PT) release, Beyonce’s self-titled fifth solo studio set is likely headed towards a No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200 when that chart’s top 10 is revealed on Wednesday, Dec. 18.

The iTunes exclusive “visual” album, retailing for $15.99, contains 14 tracks — not available for a la carte purchases until Dec. 20 — and 14 accompanying videos, along with other bonus video content. As of this morning, no set date has been announced for the CD release to physical retailers or of its availability on other digital download sites.

In just a three-hour sales window (closing at midnight Friday PT), “Beyonce” reportedly sold over 80,000 copies, according to industry sources. It’s still too early to judge what the set will do over the full three days left in the sales tracking week (which ends Sunday night), but with prior projected leader, “Blame It All On My Roots: Five Decades Of Influences” by Garth Brooks, estimated to shift 150,000-160,000 units, Beyonce is already halfway that sum. And in the time it would take someone to fly from New York to Miami.

The album release was so heavily guarded, that reportedly only a dozen or so members of her Sony Records family even were aware of the set being pushed to iTunes yesterday evening.

Beyonce’s last studio set “4” sold 310,000 in its debut week in July of 2011, but that was with a full sales week and a marketing/media push leading up to the release. It is an interesting commentary on the influence of social media in today’s world if “Beyonce” can come close to that sum with just social buzz driving the project instead of weeks of traditional media promotion normally part of the album release playbook.

Stay tuned to billboard.com as we track “Beyonce’s” sales over the course of the weekend and predict where the album will land, both in units and in rank, when the top of the Billboard 200 chart is revealed on Wednesday, Dec. 18.

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