by Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY
Initial sales of Adele's Skyfall may not be sky-high, but the new James Bond theme is soaring past many predecessors.
The British singer's first studio recording since 2011's 21 album sold 261,000 copies since its release Thursday night. It ranks third behind the debuts of One Direction's Live While We're Young with 341,000 and Taylor Swift's Red with 312,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Those enjoyed a full week on the market before SoundScan's tracking cycle ended Sunday.
"Considering Skyfall was only on sale a little over three days, that's a pretty robust number," says Keith Caulfield, Billboard's associate director of charts. Anticipation for the new Bond film of the same name (opening Nov. 9), hubbub over the franchise's 50th anniversary and eagerness for new Adele music fed the early sales surge, Caulfield says.
LISTEN:Check out Adele's 'Skyfall'
Skyfall enters Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart, which also weighs airplay and streaming data, at No. 8, Adele's highest bow to date.
The midtempo ballad, recorded in London with a 77-piece orchestra, went to the top of iTunes' chart and saturated radio the day after its release, despite mixed reviews.
"It will be interesting to see if radio embraces the song past the first week or so," Caulfield says. "It's not a conventional pop record, and a ballad of this nature often has difficulty on American radio. That said, it's Adele, and all bets are off when it comes to her."
She's already eclipsed a slew of Bond themes that never cracked the top 10, including the most recent two, 2006's You Know My Name by Chris Cornell and 2008's Another Way to Die by Jack White and Alicia Keys. Duran Duran's A View to a Kill (1985) was a chart-topper but Tina Turner's GoldenEye (1995) flopped.
Bond themes "have a spotty record," Caulfield says. "There's no guarantee. Selecting Adele was a very conscious decision to go after a hit. It's like calling up Taylor Swift for The Hunger Games. You know it's at least going to attract a lot of attention."