Brit thrush debuts at No. 1

BMG’s J Records is getting a jump on Nielsen SoundScan, announcing that Leona Lewis’ “Spirit” will be the first-ever album by a British female artist to debut at No. 1 and will post the highest digital sales week for an album.

Disc is likely to top 205,000 in sales and become the biggest-selling debut from a female artist since 2005, when Carrie Underwood’s “Some Hearts” was released. Lewis’ chart-topping track “Bleeding Love,” released about nine weeks ago, has sold 925,000 digital downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It is currently No. 2.

Lewis won British singing competition TV show “The X Factor” in 2006. The prize was a contract with Syco, the label owned by Simon Cowell, who produces the show and is one of its three judges. Cowell and BMG chief Clive Davis were among the producers of the album.

“We took our time on the record,” Cowell told Daily Variety. “I said, ‘We’re not going to rush this — we will release it when we are all happy with it.’ Through Clive’s help, we were able to work with top songwriters, and when we had ‘Bleeding Love,’ we were able to use (‘X Factor’) as a launch pad.”

Prior to this week, “Spirit” had sold 2.5 million copies worldwide. After it was released in the U.K., J Records staff continued to tinker with the album.

“They had to come up with an album at the end of the year because of the TV show. We didn’t have to meet a time deadline,” Davis said.

Cowell approached Davis about working with Lewis soon after she won “X Factor.” Davis set up a showcase with songwriters during Grammy week in February 2007 that, he said, “triggered a lot of material.” Album has a dozen original compositions and a cover of “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”

“This was someone with a special voice,” Davis said. “It was good to include something that was not another entry into the hit (record) sweepstakes. We wanted a wide demographic appeal.”

“Spirit” was released in the U.K. in November and became the territory’s fastest-selling debut album ever, selling 376,000 copies in its first week to top the previous record holder, the Arctic Monkeys’ “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” by 12,000 copies.

In March, when “Bleeding Love” went to No. 1, it was the first time in 21 years that a solo Brit female held the position. The last was Kim Wilde’s cover of the Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” In the U.K., Lewis had the top-selling single of 2006 in the U.K., “A Moment Like This.”

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