Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson Race To A Million

"American Idol" winners Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood have albums climbing toward the one million sales plateau and it looks like it could go to the wire as to who will get there first.

People are always making comparisons, especially between artists or their music or career statistics. When it comes to recording artists, one way many compare is through units sold -- how many records, whether it be digital or CD, the artist has moved. Rivalries often spring up among fans or are prompted by the press, even if the artists remain friends or have never met. In the case of "American Idol" winners Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, the rivalry appears to be a media construct, because the two young women speak well of each other. But that doesn't stop the comparisons.

And right now, the two "Idol" winners are headed toward a sales threshold with their latest albums and it appears to be a race that could go down to the wire, although it seems as if Underwood might have the momentum.

At present, Underwood's latest album, Blown Away, has sold 902,000 copies. Clarkson's latest offering, Stronger, is at 952,000. Although fifty thousand units separate the totals, there is reason to believe that Underwood's album will soon overtake Clarkson's and surpass the million in sales mark ahead Stronger.

Take, for instance, the fact that Blown Away has been selling steadily for weeks and posted 24,000 in sales last week, according to Neilsen Soundscan (via "Idol Chatter"). That same week, when Underwood received a 59 percent increase in sales after hosting and performing on the Country Music Association Awards, Clarkson, who also performed on the show, saw her album only move 3,000 copies. Of course, Underwood's sales will most likely fade back to pre-CMA sales levels (somewhere around the 10,000 mark), they might not. People are beginning to shop for Christmas and CDs make great stocking stuffers, so...

But even if sales remain at regular levels -- say a 10,000 to 3,000 ratio -- Blown Away would still overtake and surpass Stronger in seven weeks.

Helping Underwood is the fact that her album is fresher to the market. It was released on May 1. Clarkson's album dropped on Oct. 24, 2011, over a year ago.

Then there is the anticipated release of Clarkson's latest album, a greatest hits compilation, which is scheduled to be released Nov. 16. It might provide Stronger with a bit of a sales bump but for those fans that only want Clarkson's best, they'll be able to get her hits from Stronger as well as her other hits. The regular edition of Greatest Hits: Chapter 1 has a track list of 17 songs, including three tunes recorded solely for the album.

Yet, to reach a million in sales ahead of Underwood would be an in-your-face to the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). They awarded Underwood a platinum album certificate two weeks ahead of Clarkson, even though at the time, Blown Away's sales were over 170,000 units behind Stronger's. But in their defense, the RIAA awards certificates after receiving data from various sources, whereas Neilsen Soundscan reflects only sales from those affiliated with the data-collecting service.

And Underwood will probably get another bump in sales for Blown Away in a few short weeks. She's up for four American Country Awards at the third annual ceremony. The show is set to be an "American Idol" alum get-together, as Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery, Season 10 runner-up Lauren Alaina, and Season 9 third-placer Casey James are scheduled to appear.

Underwood already leads in overall album sales among "Idol" alums, having sold over 13.5 million (in the U. S.) to the Season 1 winner's 11.7 million. However, the Season 4 winner fell to the first Idol in the top selling single category earlier this year when "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" overtook "Before He Cheats" to become the biggest seller of all alum songs to date.

UPDATE: Well, it didn't take that long at all. Carrie Underwood, with a bump from a 74,000-copy sales week soared past the million mark the last week of November (1,010,000 units total). According to "Idol Chatter," Kelly Clarkson's Stronger also saw a sales increase for a 19,000-copy jump. That album now has sold over 978,000 units.

Blown Away is Underwood's fourth album to sell more than a million copies.

(photo credit: Keith Hinkle, Wikimedia Commons)