'Empire' V Madonna—Battle For Next Week's Top Album Is Gonna Be Epic

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Empire has more than proven its staying power, given the nature of its consistent ratings increase for an impressive eight consecutive weeks. Last week's harrowing "Unto the Breach" chapter witnessed a 5.8 rating in the coveted 18-49 key demographic—that's a six percent increase over the prior week, with a two percent rise in total viewership, now hitting 14.33 million. And the gravy train keeps chugging along: this week's drop of the accompanying soundtrack could hit 90-100,000 copies!

With streaming and TEA (track equivalent albums) factored in (or SPS), the boastful 18-track album (featuring standouts Drip Drop and You're So Beautiful) might move a total of 115-125,000 units. Hits Daily Double's one-day predictions indicate the race for No. 1 on the chart will be a tough one, as Madonna's bold Rebel Heart is projected to conjure up similar numbers: 100-110,000 cold albums; 115-125,000 total units.

Could we see a split ruling next week? Empire at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and Madge at the summit on Top Albums? Get ready folks, it's time to break out the popcorn and wine!

Also, country singer Luke Bryan's latest and final Spring Break collection is looking at a 85-95k sales bow and 95-105k (SPS).

Meanwhile, the show is aiming to push breakout stars Jussie Smollett (Jamal Lyon) and rapper Bryshere Gray (Hakeem Lyon) to radio. Much like Glee, the criminally underrated Smash and the current soapy drama Nashville, the blockbuster has been issuing tracks to iTunes immediately following each episode. "The writers were smart when they decided they wanted two of the leads to be musically talented," Gray shares with LA Times' Gerrick D. Kennedy in a lengthy must-read. "It brings a dynamic, and people are connecting with the music and the characters."

Fox's head of music Geoff Bywater gushes about the prospects of the show, as well as the challenges the freshman drama has faced:

"Certainly making original songs for every episode was going to be a unique challenge. But because we are doing original music, we are really allowed to use the music in all avenues of promotion — and that's what's really exciting about it. The music is really starting to make its connection now with the audience," Bywater said. "The thing that was so gratifying for me was putting [Smollett and Gray] in a room with a live band and saying, 'Wow, these guys are really going to impress people.' They are performers."

He adds, "There is going to be a bigger demand. Every writer, producer and urban artist is going to want to be a part of it," Bywater said. "It's exciting because it's bringing a new form of exposure to the business. But it's going to be a little easier because we aren't talking about something that no one knows about."

Empire returns tonight (March 11) on Fox at 9/8c, gearing up for next week's two-hour season finale.

Stay tuned for Empire & Madonna updates. Be sure to follow @Popdust and @JasonTheScott on Twitter!

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