McEntire headed for first No. 1


Billboard's first Woman of the Year may be in line for her first career No. 1 on the Billboard 200, as Reba McEntire's new album leads the Friday edition of Nielsen SoundScan's Building Chart.

Unweighted sales through close of Thursday from 94% of the Building Chart panel stand at 155,000 for "Reba Duets" (MCA), which means McEntire is on course for her biggest sales week in more than a decade. Kanye West's "Graduation" stands as the Friday runner-up at 91,000.

An informed source estimates that West's album and 50 Cent's "Curtis" will each experience second-week declines of 76% after turning heads last week with totals of 957,000 and 691,000, respectively.

Billboard estimates that the merchants who report to Nielsen SoundScan's Building Chart -- Trans World Entertainment, Best Buy, Circuit City, iTunes, Border's, Target, Anderson Merchandisers, and Handleman Co. -- represent 79% of the U.S. retail market.

McEntire appeared on the Sept. 19 telecast of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on an episode that also featured Justin Timberlake and Kelly Clarkson, who each take turns on "Reba Duets." She will receive Billboard's inaugural Woman of the Year award on Oct. 5 in New York.

Christmas week of 1993, when "Greatest Hits Volume Two" rang 183,000 copies, was the last time McEntire ended a Nielsen SoundScan week with a total larger than her sum on Friday's Building Chart. That was the largest weekly sum for any of the 12 prior albums she has released since Nielsen SoundScan launched in 1991.

McEntire's best peak on the Billboard 200 was a No. 2 plateau for 1994 set "Read My Mind," and she has notched nine No. 1s on Top Country Albums.