Carrie Underwood easily trounces the competition this week as her fourth album, Blown Away, debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with 267,000 sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
It's the best sales week for a country album since the Oct. 1, 2011, chart, when Lady Antebellum's Own the Night bowed atop the list with 347,000. It's the largest frame for a country set by a solo artist since Taylor Swift's Speak Now sold 276,000 during the Christmas week of 2010.
The debut for Blown is also the second-largest arrival of any album in 2012. This year, only Madonna's MDNA started bigger, with 358,000. So far in 2012, just three titles have bowed with more than 200,000 in their first week -- and they are all by women. In addition to Underwood and Madonna, Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded is in the 200,000-plus debut club, as it started with 253,000.
A year ago at this point, five albums had started north of 200,000: Adele's 21 (351,000), Lupe Fiasco's Lasers (204,000), Chris Brown's F.A.M.E. (270,000), Britney Spears' Femme Fatale (276,000) and Foo Fighters' Wasting Light (235,000).
Blown Away marks the third chart-topper for Underwood on the Billboard 200, following 2007's Carnival Ride (527,000 first week) and 2009's Play On (318,000). She is only the third woman to take three country albums to No. 1 on the Billboard 200, following Linda Ronstadt and Faith Hill. Ronstadt did it with Heart Like a Wheel (1974), Simple Dreams (1977) and Living in the USA (1978). Hill topped the tally consecutively with Breathe (1999), Cry (2002) and Fireflies (2005).
Trailing Underwood on the Billboard 200 this week is Norah Jones' . . . Little Broken Hearts, debuting at No. 2 with 110,000. It's her fifth studio set overall, and fifth to reach the top three. She crowned the tally with three earlier efforts and hit No. 3 with her last one, 2009's The Fall. The new album's debut sales week is the smallest for any of Jones' studio offerings since her first, Come Away With Me, launched with 10,000 in 2002.
The new Now 42 compilation enters at No. 3 with 95,000 -- giving the chart its first debut-filled top three since Nov. 19, 2011. That week, the entire top four were new arrivals, led by Justin Bieber's Under the Mistletoe at No. 1, with Wale's Ambition, Miranda Lambert's Four the Record and Susan Boyle's Someone to Watch Over Me starting at Nos. 2-4, respectively.
If the top three are all debuts this week, that must mean Adele's long-running 21 has (momentarily?) stepped aside from the top three. This week it slips 2-4 with 77,000 (down 8%). It had been lodged in the top three rungs since Dec. 17.
B.o.B's second album, Strange Clouds, floats in at No. 5 with a 76,000 start. It follows 2010's The Adventures of Bobby Ray, which debuted at No. 1 (84,000). Strange Clouds was led by the set's title track, which hit No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the new single "So Good" (No. 11).
Lionel Richie's Tuskegee moves 3-6 (64,000; down 18%), Jack White's Blunderbuss falls 1-7 (56,000; down 60%), and One Direction's Up All Night slips 4-8 (45,000; down 10%).
The final two positions in the top 10 are taken up by new entries, with the Smash TV soundtrack starting at No. 9 (39,000) and Marilyn Manson's Born Villain entering at No. 10 (38,000). It is the latter's seventh top 10 album and follows 2009's The High End of Low (No. 4 with 49,000).
Over on the Digital Songs chart, the entire top five is stationary this week, led again by Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" (featuring Kimbra) with 348,000 (down 16%).
Maroon 5's "Payphone" (featuring Wiz Khalifa) is No. 2 (286,000; down 13%), Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" is No. 3 (210,000; down 5%), fun.'s "We Are Young" (featuring Janelle Monae) is No. 4 (187,000; down 10%) and Bieber's "Boyfriend" is No. 5 (172,000; down 10%).
One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful" is up one rung to No. 6 (151,000; down 11%) while Minaj's "Starships" rises two slots to No. 7 (147,000; down 2%). B.o.B's "Both of Us" (featuring Swift) is the chart's highest debut, starting at No. 8 (143,000). Closing out the top 10 are Flo Rida's "Wild Ones" (featuring Sia), falling one position to No. 9 (139,000; down 9%), and the Wanted's "Glad You Came," staying steady at No. 10 (120,000; down 16%).
Overall album sales in this past chart week (ending May 6) totaled 5.8 million units, up 7% compared with the sum last week (5.4 million) and down 7% compared with the comparable sales week of 2011 (6.2 million). Year-to-date album sales stand at 106.7 million, down 1% compared with the same total at this point last year (108.1 million).
Digital track sales this past week totaled 25.4 million downloads, down less than 1% compared with last week (25.5 million) and down 6% when stacked next to the comparable week of 2011 (24 million). Year-to-date track sales are at 495.4 million, up 7% compared with the same total at this point last year (462.4 million).
Next week's Billboard 200 competes with the same week in 2011 when: Adele's 21 held at No. 1 for an eighth nonconsecutive week (156,000; up less than 1%) while the top debut was the Lonely Island's Turtleneck & Chain at No. 3 (68,000).