'Now' Is The Time For Maxwell At No. 1

Maxwell bursts onto The Billboard 200 this week with "Now" (Columbia), after selling 296,000 units in the U.S., according to SoundScan, to earn his first-ever No. 1 album. The R&B singer's collect

Maxwell bursts onto The Billboard 200 this week with "Now" (Columbia), after selling 296,000 units in the U.S., according to SoundScan, to earn his first-ever No. 1 album. The R&B singer's collection is one of two new albums to enter the top-10 this week, besting rapper Juvenile's "Project English" (Cash Money/Universal), which arrives No. 2 on the strength of 213,000 units sold. "Now" and "Project English" open back-to-back on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums as well.

"Now" gives Maxwell his strongest one-week numbers, cruising by the 149,000 copies posted by his previous set, "Embrya." That 1998 album debuted at No. 3 on The Billboard 200 and went on to sell 1.04 million units. Industry observers foretold the mighty debut by Maxwell last week when the set appeared at No. 90 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart due to street date violations. His current single, "Lifetime," slides 29-20 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks tally, and makes its debut at No. 72 on The Billboard Hot 100.

Juvenile also enjoys the highest chart position of his career, though the first week numbers of "Project English" trail those of 1999's "Tha G-Code." During the 1999 holiday season, that album sold 290,000 in its debut week to arrive at No. 10. The new album's first single, "Set It Off," is No. 22 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart and No. 74 on the Hot 100.

The No. 1 debut by Maxwell's "Now" knocks the various artist hits compilation album "NOW! That's What I Call Music Vol. 7" (EMI/Universal/Sonly/Zomba/Virgin) out of its three-week perch in the top slot and down to No. 3, on a 24% decline to 212,000 units. No volume in the "NOW!" series has lasted more than three weeks atop The Billboard 200.

Other newcomers on The Billboard 200 include the self-titled Arista debut for California hard rockers Adema at No. 27, and Christina Aguilera's "Just Be Free," a controversial collection of early recordings that the teen star attempted to prevent from release by Platinum/Warlock, at No. 71.

Jennifer Lopez, whose "J. Lo" album (Epic) returned to the top-10 of The Billboard 200 last week, ousts Alicia Keys' "Fallin'" from No. 1 on the Hot 100 with "I'm Real" featuring Ja Rule, the Hot 100's fastest-growing track at radio. "Fallin'," however, manages to hold its ground on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Track chart, where the cut is No. 1 for a fourth straight week.

Another diva, Janet Jackson, has the Hot 100's fastest-growing track at retail this week with "Someone to Call My Lover," yet isn't able to gain any ground. She settles for No. 3 behind Lopez and Keys. The track squeaks up one slot to No. 11 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks tally.

Jackson's brother Michael has the Hot 100's top debut at No. 34 with "You Rock My World," his first single in five years. The cut, co-produced by hitmaker Rodney Jerkins, will be featured on Jackson's much ballyhooed forthcoming Epic release, "Invincible," due in October.

Other notable debuts on the Hot 100 include the late Aaliyah's "Rock the Boat" at No. 57, Nickelback's How You Remind Me" at No. 75, and Carolyn Dawn Johnson's "Complicated" at No. 77. "Rock the Boat" also storms 36-16 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart. The young R&B star was killed in a plane crash last Saturday following a video shoot for the track in the Bahamas.

Young country star Blake Shelton has the No. 1 single on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart for the fifth straight week with "Austin," while the Mercury soundtrack to "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" continues to thrive, enjoying its 19th-non-consecutive week atop Billboard's Top Country
Albums chart. "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" is back at No. 1 atop Billboard's Top Soundtracks chart for a third week after falling to No. 2 last week to the Republic/Universal soundtrack to "American Pie 2."

Staind's "It's Been Awhile" begins a staggering 20th week at No. 1 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks tally, while Alien Ant Farm's cover of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" settles in for a third week atop Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart.