NEW YORK – Justin Timberlake’s comeback album has sold nearly 1 million units its first week out.
Nielsen SoundScan announced this week that the singer’s third album, “The 20/20 Experience,” has moved 968,000 units. It’s the 19th album in Nielsen’s 22-year history that has sold more than 900,000 albums in its debut week.
“20/20” is Timberlake’s third album and the follow-up to his multiplatinum, Grammy-winning 2006 album, “FutureSex/LoveSounds.” The new CD features the pop hit “Suit & Tie.”
“The numbers are pleasantly surprising,” said Tom Corson, the president and chief operating officer of RCA Records, which released Timberlake’s album.
The label had projected that “20/20” would sell 500,000 to 600,000 units, Corson said.
Timberlake, 31, was strategic about promoting his comeback effort: He performed at the Grammy Awards, hosted and hit the stage at “Saturday Night Live” and spent an entire week on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”
The singer also partnered with Target for the album’s deluxe edition and “20/20” streamed on iTunes a week before it was released.
Timberlake came up with the idea of a weeklong stint himself, Fallon said.
“I think he mentioned it to me like a year ago that he’s working on something and wanted to do a week on our show,” Fallon said Tuesday.
“20/20” is an unconventional album that features a mesh of R&B, soul, pop and futuristic sounds. The 10 tracks average seven minutes each.
Corson believes Timberlake’s key to promoting the album was “less is more.”
“While it felt like he was everywhere, he didn’t do a lot of things because he didn’t have to. But he did big things,” he said.
Fallon even joked that other celebrities are trying to follow in Timberlake’s footsteps with a weeklong stay on his show.
“We’re getting a lot of phone calls now to do themed-weeks for people,” said Fallon, who added that the show’s writers and producers developed a load of material for “Timberweek.”
“We have enough for another month,” he said. “We could have `Timbermonth.’ Trust me, NBC is already pitching it to me.”
Of the 19 albums to sell more than 900,000 in their debut week, Timberlake holds three slots. His albums with `N Sync, 2000’s “No Strings Attached” and 2001’s “Celebrity,” sold 2.4 million and 1.9 million in their first week, respectively. Backstreet Boys, Lil Wayne and Taylor Swift have two albums each that have hit that level.
The excitement over the new album has also boosted sales of Timberlake’s other solo albums, Nielsen Co. said. Last year, “FutureSex/LoveSounds” and 2002’s “Justified” sold 39,000 and 21,000 copies each, but this year they’ve already sold 29,000 and 17,000, respectively.
“As the marketing sort of picks up for the new record and the single goes to radio ... you definitely start to see interest,” said David Bakula, Nielsen’s senior vice president of client development and analytics for entertainment.
Bakula said `N Sync sales are up, too.
“20/20” was streamed 7.73 million times on Spotify in its first week, putting it second behind the 8 million streams set by Mumford & Sons’ “Babel” last year. Steve Savoca, Spotify’s head of content, said Timberlake’s colossal first-week numbers are another example of how streaming music helps artists sell albums.
Fallon said Timberlake worked tirelessly ahead of the five shows and he’s proud of his friend’s success.
“Justin was here till 11 o’clock most nights choreographing dance moves so he nailed it the next night,” he said. “And he was sick at the time.”
Corson said this week’s success could change the expectation of Timberlake’s follow-up to “20/20,” which will likely be released later this year.
“It sure should,” he said with a laugh. “Part two is now even more anticipated.”
Timberlake could even show up for a stint on Fallon again.
“We are already talking about it,” Fallon said.