The No. 1 slot on the Billboard 200 albums chart this week was seemingly up for grabs a week ago, when industry prognosticators were predicting that it was a race between the then-current topper "The Gift" from Susan Boyle, former No. 1 "Speak Now" by Taylor Swift and Michael Jackson's new "Michael."

Well, Swift triumphs, as her "Speak" sells 259,000 (up 29%) according to Nielsen SoundScan and returns to No. 1 for a third non-consecutive week. She beats out Boyle by 5,000 copies, as "Gift" falls one slot to No. 2 with 254,000 (up 5%). Swift's "Speak" total rises to 2.6 million, holding as 2010's third-best selling set. It stands behind only Eminem's "Recovery" (3.2 million) and Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" (3 million). It's been six weeks since "Speak" was on top, marking the longest gap between No. 1 frames for an album since Alicia Keys' "As I Am" stepped aside for eight weeks between Dec. 1, 2007 and Jan. 26, 2008.

Michael Jackson's much buzzed-about "Michael" enters the Billboard 200 this week at No. 3 with 228,000 -- a start actually bigger than initially projected. It's Jackson's ninth solo album to reach the top 10 and it follows his No. 1 set from a year ago, "This Is It," which launched with 373,000.

One step below Jackson is young Jackie Evancho's "O Holy Night," rising one slot to No. 4 with 191,000 (up 28%) and "Glee's" Christmas album falling two rungs to No 5 with 158,000 (down 18%).

R. Kelly's new "Love Letter" debuts at No. 6 with 154,000, giving the R&B kingpin his 13th top 10 set. A year ago, he arrived at No. 4 with "Untitled," shifting 114,000. Diddy-Dirty Money's "Last Train To Paris" rolls in at No. 7 with 101,000 -- a number rather larger than initial forecasts. Diddy was last on the tally with his "Press Play" set in 2006, when it started at No. 1 with 170,000.

Nicki Minaj's "Pink Friday" holds on in the top 10 for a fourth week, as it slips two spots to No. 8 (97,000; though up 19%), Kid Rock's "Born Free" rallies up six positions to No. 9 (94,000; up 41% in the wake of sale advertising at major retailers last week) and the "Glee, the Music: Season Two: Volume 4" album descends two spots to No. 10 (87,000; up 17%).

Due to the competitive nature of the charts around the holiday shopping season, many new releases from significant names are somewhat lost in the shuffle this week. The next highest debut outside the top 10 comes from 2010 "American Idol" runner-up Crystal Bowersox at No. 28 with her "Farmer's Daughter" starting with 58,000. That sales figure beats the start of winner Lee DeWyze's "Live It Up" at few weeks ago, which entered higher (No. 19) but with a smaller total (39,000).

Other acts scrambling for debuts this week at lower rungs: Tank at No. 35 with "Now Or Never" (44,000), Ciara at No. 44 with "Basic Instinct" (37,000) and Kandi at No. 91 with "Kandi Koated" (18,000).

Over on the Digital Songs chart this week, Bruno Mars' "Grenade" moves 2-1, hitting the top of the list for the first time (212,000; up 14%), displacing Katy Perry's "Firework," which falls to No. 2 with 192,000 (down 5%). Lil Wayne's "6 Foot 7 Foot" (featuring Cory Gunz) bounds in at No. 3 in its first week with 166,000. Aside from Wayne, the only other new title amongst the top 10 is Enrique Iglesias' "Tonight (I'm Lovin' You)," which climbs three rungs to No. 9 with 109,000 (up 30%).

Overall album sales in this past chart week (ending Dec. 19) totaled 12.50 million units, up 23% compared to the sum last week (10.20 million) and down 17% compared to the comparable sales week of 2009 (15.14 million). Year to date album sales stand at 303.94 million, down 13% compared to the same total at this point last year (348.99 million).

Digital track sales this past week totaled 21.18 million downloads, up 3% compared to last week (20.47 million) and up 6% stacked next to the comparable week of 2009 (19.90 million). Year to date track sales are at 1.086 billion, up 1% compared to the same total at this point last year (1.077 billion).

Among the albums released this week, due on next week's charts: Keri Hilson's "No Boys Allowed," Jamie Foxx's "Best Night of My Life," Keyshia Cole's "Calling All Hearts," Avant's "The Letter" and David Banner and 9th Wonder's "Death of a Pop Star."

Next week's Billboard 200 competes with the same week in 2009 when: Susan Boyle lingered for a fifth week at No. 1 with "I Dreamed a Dream" (510,000; down 23%), ahead of a No. 2 debut from Mary J. Blige's "Stronger With Each Tear" (330,000). One more new entry graced the top 10, from Young Money at No. 9 with "We Are Young Money" (142,000).

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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