Nas returns to a familiar spot on the Billboard 200: No. 1. The artist's latest album, "Life Is Good," debuts atop the list with 149,000 sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It marks Nas' sixth chart-topper, stretching back to 1996's "It Was Written."
The new album arrives without the benefit of a major hit single on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart-but that shouldn't come as a surprise. Nas hasn't earned a top 40 hit on the tally since 2003's "I Can" reached No. 7. Since then, he's racked up 12 entries as a lead act, but none have climbed higher than No. 46 (2007's "Can't Forget About You" featuring Chrisette Michele). Nas also arrives at No. 1 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, marking his ninth leader on the tally.
'Knight' flies high: The soundtrack to "The Dark Knight Rises" debuts at a high-flying No. 8 with 33,000-the highest debut for a score in 10 years. The last to bow higher was John Williams' "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones," which debuted and peaked at No. 6 on the May 11, 2002, chart. The WaterTower Music release is the first score to reach the top 10 since Daft Punk's instrumental soundtrack to "Tron: Legacy" peaked at No. 4 on the Jan. 22, 2011, list.
"The Dark Knight Rises" is also the highest-charting-and first top 10-album from a "Batman" film since 1997's "Batman & Robin" flew to No. 5 on July 12, 1997, after debuting at No. 9 two weeks earlier.
Unlike the new "Dark Knight Rises" set, which features only Hans Zimmer's score, "Batman & Robin" was a various-artists affair. That album sported hits by Jewel ("Foolish Games," No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100), Smashing Pumpkins ("The End Is the Beginning Is the End," No. 4 on Alternative), Bone Thugs-N-Harmony ("Look Into My Eyes," No. 4 on the Hot 100), R. Kelly ("Gotham City," No. 9 on the Hot 100) and Goo Goo Dolls ("Lazy Eye," No. 5 on Active Rock). Needless to say, a various-artists set chock-full of hits is a likelier suspect for a top 10 ranking on the Billboard 200 than an all-score effort.
"The Dark Knight Rises" is the third installment in the rebooted "Batman" franchise directed by Christopher Nolan. The scores to "Batman Begins" (2005) and "The Dark Knight" (2008) reached Nos. 155 and 20, respectively. Neither film had a various-artists compilation released as a companion to the score.
The top 10 achievement of "The Dark Knight Rises" gives WaterTower its second top 10 this year, following "Rock of Ages" (No. 5). The label, in its former incarnation as New Line, had top 10s with "Hairspray" (No. 2 in 2007) and "Sex and the City" (No. 2 in 2008).
Making cents of it all: In its second week on the Billboard 200, Frank Ocean's "Channel Orange" slips two spots down to No. 4 with 54,000 (down 59%) after becoming widely available to all retailers last week. (That number doesn't include its estimated 15,000 sales from Amazon MP3, as it sold the title for $2.99 last week. Per Billboard policy, that is below the minimum price of $3.49 required for sales to count toward chart placement during an album's first four weeks of release.)
Two steps below Ocean we find a surprising re-entry, courtesy of Amazon MP3, from someone who hasn't topped the charts in years: Phil Collins.
The singer's ". . . Hits" rebounds onto the list with 40,000 sold (up 4,575%) after Amazon MP3 sold the set for 99 cents on July 18. Unlike the Ocean album, this title's discounted Amazon MP3 sales are eligible because the set is more than 4 weeks old. Hits originally peaked at No. 18, where it debuted, on Oct. 24, 1998. With the album's return to the list, it instantly gives Collins his first top 10-and highest-charting album-since 1989's But Seriously spent four weeks at No. 1 and completed a top 10 run in April of 1990.
Hits isn't the only set impacted by 99 cent pricing by Amazon this week, as Bruno Mars' "Doo-Wops & Hooligans" rises from No. 135 to No. 11 with 27,000 (up 644%), Shinedown's "Amaryllis" climbs 108-24 with 16,000 (up 257%), and Demi Lovato's "Unbroken" zooms 124-27 with 13,000 (up 239%). The latter was promoted on Sunday, July 22, the same day she co-hosted Fox's "Teen Choice Awards."
You may have also noticed a bevy of R&B titles that make gains on the Billboard 200, like Prince's "Ultimate" (No. 55; up 1,782%) and Sade's "The Best Of" (No. 121; up 220%). They, like Ocean's "Channel Orange," were part of a week-long Amazon MP3 promotion where 20 R&B albums were priced at $2.99. That was the latest weekly batch of $2.99 titles, following weekly deals on hit soundtracks and country albums, respectively.