Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" returns to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for a fourth non-consecutive week (93,000; down 11%), but the big album chart news is the arrival of Marvin Sapp's "Here I Am" at No. 2 with 76,000 according to Nielsen SoundScan. It's not only Sapp's highest charting album, but the highest-ranking gospel album ever in the 54-year history of the Billboard 200 chart.
Sapp's previous high-water mark came with his previous set, "Thirsty," when it hit No. 28. Until this week, no gospel album had gone higher than No. 3 -- a rank last reached by a gospel set when God's Property from Kirk Franklin's Nu Nation debuted and peaked at No. 3 on June 14, 1997 with "God's Property." Sapp's "Thirsty" spent 81 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart and has sold 712,000 to date -- an impressive number for a gospel set. Its long chart run and handsome sales figure is partially owed to his surprise smash single "Never Would Have Made It." The tune peaked at No. 14 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and lingered for 56 weeks on the list.
As previously mentioned, Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" scoots back into the No. 1 slot with 93,000 (down 11%). It's the first time we've had a No. 1 album sell less than 100,000 copies in seventh months. The last time No. 1 title sold fewer than 100,000 was when Reba McEntire's "Keep On Loving You" debuted atop the list with 96,000 in the sales week ending Aug. 23, 2009.
Last week's No. 1 on the Billboard 200, Ludacris' "Battle of the Sexes," falls to No. 3 with 61,000 (down 55%) in its sophomore week on the tally.
The chart's second-highest debut comes from the various artists rock compilation "The Edge," which begins at No. 4 with 53,000. The 32-track Razor & Tie set features Billboard rock chart hits from the likes of Godsmack, Finger Eleven, Thirty Seconds to Mars and others. A good deal of the album's sales were generated via a direct-response TV ad campaign, though the set was also available through traditional retailers. "The Edge" is the only other new entry in the top 10 this week, as the White Stripes' new live set "Under Great White Northern Lights" is the tally's third-best debut, but it just misses the top tier. It starts at No. 11 with 29,000.
Lady Gaga's "The Fame" moves up three slots to No. 5 with 48,000 (up 2%), Sade's "Soldier of Love" holds steady at No. 6 with 40,000 (down 23%) and Jimi Hendrix's "Valleys of Neptune" falls three rungs to No. 7 with a little over 39,000 (down 59%). The Black Eyed Peas' "The E.N.D." rises one spot to No. 8 with just under 39,000 (down 9%), Gorillaz's "Plastic Beach" drops seven spaces to No. 9 with 38,000 (down 66%) and Justin Bieber's "My World" climbs one position to No. 10 with 34,000 (up 21%).
Overall album sales in this past chart week (ending March 21) totaled 5.66 million units, down 7% compared to the sum last week (6.09 million) and down 8% compared to the comparable sales week of 2009 (6.13 million).