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Backstreet Boys’ ‘Millennium’ Charts Best Sales Week Ever

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Take a seat, Garth Brooks--the Backstreet Boys’ “Millennium” has arrived.

The new album from the hottest boy band in pop music had the best sales week in the history of the recording industry last week, topping the mark set by country music titan Brooks.

The second album from the harmonizing heartthrobs sold 1.13 million copies during its first week in stores, eclipsing the 1.08 million copies that Brooks’ “Double Live” concert album sold in its debut week in November.

The “Millennium” one-week tally becomes the highest in the era of SoundScan, the sales tracking system that went into effect in 1991. The growth in the overall market and the efficiency of today’s sales and marketing suggest that “Millennium” would also top totals from previous decades.

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Powered by the single “I Want It That Way” and feeding a fan frenzy for teen pop, “Millennium” flew off record racks and is positioned to be the sound of summer 1999. “There appears to be no end in sight for sales associated with the Backstreet Boys,” said Gary Arnold, an executive with Best Buy.

“Millennium” is a follow-up to the group’s self-titled 1997 debut--which this week leaped back into the Top 30 and passed 8 million in U.S. sales--and offers the group’s trademark sound: heavily produced ballads and up-tempo dance tracks.

Critics acknowledge the craft of the music (many cite songwriter-producer Max Martin as the creative force) but often dismiss it as lifeless. The fans, however, have made the Orlando, Fla., group the crown princes of a youth pop movement that includes ‘N Sync, 98 Degrees and Britney Spears.

“This changing landscape in music--the cultural shift to happy, positive music--they’ve spearheaded that for the music industry,” said Barry Weiss, president of Jive Records, the label that releases the Backstreet Boys and Spears. The new sales record, he added, “is the best possible headline for the music industry as a whole.”

Despite an intense “Millennium” presence in stores, on MTV and on radio, the group’s co-manager, Jeff Kwatinetz, said the Backstreet camp had not anticipated making history.

“We never really thought we had a chance for the record,” Kwatinetz said, pointing to the group’s current absence from the concert circuit and the “off-season” release. What total could “Millennium” have reached if, like Brooks’ album, it had come at the height of the holiday season? “God only knows,” said Kwatinetz.


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