YouTube sensation and former "Britain's Got Talent" contestant Susan Boyle's debut album "I Dreamed a Dream" opens at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart with 701,000 copies sold in its first week according to Nielsen SoundScan -- the best sales week for an album in the U.S. this year.
2009's previous high-water mark came when Eminem's "Relapse" sold 608,000 in its opening week. In fact, Boyle's sales frame is the best the chart has seen since AC/DC's "Black Ice" bowed with 784,000 upon its release in October 2008.
Boyle's SYCO/Columbia effort was released last Monday, Nov. 23 and the sales tracking week ended at the close of business on Sunday, Nov. 29.
The arrival of "I Dreamed a Dream" also marks the best opening week for a female artist's debut album since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991. Boyle beats out Ashanti for the title, as her self-titled debut began with 503,000 in 2002.
All told, in SoundScan's tracking history, only one other debut album has seen a bigger opening week. Snoop Dogg's album "Doggystyle" barked with 803,000 in its first week back in 1993.
Boyle wasn't the only artist to drop an album in the very busy Thanksgiving shopping week, as the reality TV star led a packed release schedule.
2009 "American Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert's debut "For Your Entertainment" starts at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 with 198,000 copies. Last week, "Idol" champ Kris Allen saw his self-titled debut bow at No. 11 with 80,000.
Rihanna's fourth album "Rated R" climbs in at No. 4 with 181,000 -- the young diva's best sales week yet. Her previous best came when her third album "Good Girl Gone Bad" started with 162,000 at No. 2 in 2007.
Lady Gaga's new eight-song quasi-EP "The Fame Monster" bows at No. 5 with 174,000 while her first album "The Fame" rises from No. 34 to No. 6 (151,000; up 429%). The latter "Fame's" total jumps this week because it combines sales of her debut set in addition to a two-disc deluxe "The Fame" package that contains both "The Fame" and the new "Monster" disc.
As for holdovers in the top 10, Andrea Bocelli's "My Christmas" stands strong at No. 2 for a third week as it shifts 218,000 (up 18%) while Miley Cyrus' Wal-Mart-exclusive EP "The Time Of Our Lives" vaults from No. 29 to No. 7 with 150,000 (up 385%) thanks in part to its $5 sale tag at the retailer last week. Taylor Swift's "Fearless" moves from No. 10 to No. 8 with 125,000 (up 48%), Carrie Underwood's "Play On" holds at No. 9 with 124,000 (up 44%) and Norah Jones' "The Fall" falls from No. 3 to No. 10 with 110,000 (down 39%).
Last week's Billboard 200 No. 1, John Mayer's "Battle Studies," slips to No. 13 in its second week with 92,000 (down 68%).
Overall album sales in this past chart week (ending Nov. 29) totaled 10.73 million units, up 34% compared to the sum last week (7.99 million) and down 12% compared to the Thanksgiving sales week of 2008 (12.21 million). Year to date album sales stand at 320.2 million, down 13% compared to the same total at this point last year (369.9 million).