No surprise: Eminem's "Relapse" brings the rapper back to familiar ground -- the No. 1 slot on the Billboard 200. With 608,000 sold in its first week, it not only nets the biggest sales week of the year for any album, but the best since AC/DC's "Black Ice" began with 784,000 copies last October.
It's Eminem's fifth straight No. 1 debut -- and fifth overall No. 1. His only album to miss the top spot was his "Slim Shady LP" debut, which bowed and peaked at No. 2 in 1999.
His last studio set, 2004's "Encore," arrived with 711,000 after an abbreviated debut week -- it was released four days earlier than scheduled in order to counter leaks. A little over a year later, his greatest hits package "Curtain Call" took the stage with 441,000 in December 2005. Collectively, his six albums have sold 34 million in the U.S., making him the biggest selling hip-hop act in the SoundScan era (1991-present).
Eminem was seemingly the pied-piper last week in terms of new releases, as a cavalcade of artists unleashed their latest sets last Tuesday (19). Of course, it didn't hurt that the two-night "American Idol" finale, which wrapped up on Wednesday (May 20), brought a lot of people into physical and digital stores too.
Kenny Chesney's CD-only "Greatest Hits II" arrives at No. 3 with 89,000. That gives the country king his eighth top 10 album overall, and his seventh consecutive bow in the top 10. His first "Greatest Hits," released in 2000, peaked at No. 13 and was his last non-Christmas album to miss the top 10. The new "Hits II" contains one previously unreleased track, "Out Last Night," which bullets at No. 4 for a second week on the Hot Country Songs chart. The tune isn't available digitally, so perhaps some fans were lured into buying the new "Hits II" album in order to obtain the new single.
Method Man and Redman pair up for another top 10 album as "Blackout! 2" starts at No. 4 with 63,000. The rappers collaborated on the first "Blackout!" album in 1999, which debuted and peaked at No. 3 with 254,000. Method Man has had another four solo top 10 sets on his own, while Redman has one solo top 10 (2001's "Malpractice").
Comedian/actor Dane Cook garners his second top 10 album as "ISolated INcident" starts at No. 4 with 61,000. His first top 10, 2005's "Retaliation," debuted and peaked at No. 4 with 86,000 and spent 84 weeks on the list. His new album was heralded by Comedy Central's unprecedented commercial-free airing of a stand-up premiere as the network debuted Cook's "ISolated INcident" special on Sunday, May 17.
Busta Rhymes returns to the chart after nearly three years as "Back On My B.S." enters at No. 5 with 59,000. The rapper's last set, 2006's "The Big Bang," blew in at No. 1 with 209,000. Method Man and Redman pair up for another top 10 album as "Blackout! 2" starts at No. 7 with 57,000. The rappers collaborated on the first "Blackout!" album in 1999, which debuted and peaked at No. 3 with 254,000. Method Man has had another four solo top 10 sets on his own, while Redman has one solo top 10 (2001's "Malpractice").
Tori Amos finds herself with her seventh top 10 album as "Abnormally Attracted to Sin" starts at No. 9 with 41,000. The effort is her first with Universal Republic, after having released her last three sets on Epic between 2002 and 2007. The rest of her chart career, from 1992-2001, was spent with Atlantic Records.
Singer/actress Kate Voegele jumps onto the Billboard 200 with her second studio album "A Fine Mess," landing at No. 10 with 37,000. The performer, who has a recurring role on the CW's "One Tree Hill," saw her first set, "Don't Look Away," peak at No. 27 last year.
Last week's No. 1, Green Day's "21st Century Breakdown," slips to No. 2 with 166,000 -- down only 23% after its first full week in stores. Elsewhere in the top 10, the soundtrack to "Hannah Montana: The Movie" slips four spots to No. 6 with 58,000 (down 15%) while Lady GaGa's "The Fame" falls four slots with 45,000 (up 9%). GaGa was pushed down the chart despite her gain because of the five new albums that arrived in the top six this week.
Overall album sales in this past chart week (ending May 24) totaled 6.57 million units, up 12.9% compared to the sum last week (5.82 million) and down 8.8% compared to the same sales week of 2008 (7.21 million). Year to date album sales stand at 142.9 million, down 13% compared to the same total at this point last year (164.5 million).