It's not so much a case of whether Ed Sheeran's Divide (Asylum) can take the U.K. chart crown. It will. The question is by how much and how close can it get to Adele's record?
Just three days into the new chart cycle, Sheeran's latest album is already a sales beast and it's on track to post one of the best-ever opening weeks. According to the Official Charts Company, Sheeran's third studio record has moved 432,000 copies and sits comfortably at No. 1 on the Chart Update. The most popular format for the LP by far is physical, at 63%, with digital accounting for 31% of all sales and streaming equivalent sales making up the remainder (just 6%).
Based on its early sales performance, Divide is forecast to surpass 500,000 copies in its first week, making it the biggest opening frame for an album since Adele rewrote the record books in November 2015 with 25 (XL). Adele's third album shifted 800,307 units in its first seven days, smashing the previous record of 696,000 created by Oasis' Be Here Now (Creation) in 1997 (25 was unavailable on streaming services on its release).
Adele should win this particular battle, but Sheeran is certainly up for the challenge. "Adele is the one person who's sold more records than me in the past ten years. She's the only person I need to sell more records than. That's a big f---ing feat because her last album sold 20 million," he recently told GQ. "But if I don't set her as the benchmark then I'm selling myself short...I'm not in competition [creatively] because we all sit in our own lanes, but once the creative product is out there is a race to the finish line."
Divide has already blown away the best one-week total by an album for 2016; David Bowie's Blackstar (RCA/Sony) racked-up a year-best with 143,455 copies sold in a single week last January, the month the legendary British singer passed away.
Come Friday, Sheeran should convincingly dominate the U.K.'s two main charts. With "Shape of You" expected to hang onto the singles chart title for a ninth week, Sheeran should claim the chart double. "Shape of You" currently sits at No. 1 on the Singles Chart Update.
And as Divide smashes its way to the chart crown, all 16 tracks from it are on track to enter the Top 40 and the so-called "halo effect" from the set is playing out with a spike for his catalogue, as 2014's Multiply (X) sits at No. 4 on the Chart Update and 2011's Plus (+) is at No. 5.