Susan Boyle's "I Dreamed a Dream" continues to rule the Billboard 200 chart for a fourth straight week as it sells another 661,000 copies. The "Britain's Got Talent" contestant's reign blocks Alicia Keys' from gaining her fifth No. 1 album, as her "The Element of Freedom" starts at No. 2 with 417,000 ... As for next week, industry prognosticators indicate Boyle will probably continue to sit pretty at No. 1 with possibly another 500,000 in sales. Meanwhile, Mary J. Blige's "Stronger With Each Tear" will be the chart's top arrival, perhaps starting with around 350,000 copies.


FLASH POINTS

• There's just no stopping Susan Boyle's "I Dreamed a Dream."

• The album continues to lock up the top slot on the Billboard 200 for a fourth week in a row, selling 661,000 copies (up 14%). The set has now sold a total of 2,465,000 copies and is now the second-best selling album of 2009. Only Taylor Swift's "Fearless" -- with 2,933,000 sold -- is standing in its way. And with two weeks left in the 2009 tracking year, anything is possible!

• Somewhat unfortunately for Alicia Keys, her new "The Element of Freedom" album has to play runner-up to Boyle, as Keys' fourth studio set debuts at No. 2 with 417,000. Her last effort, "As I Am," released during Thanksgiving week of 2007, started with 742,000 at No. 1.

• With "Element" bowing at No. 2, it breaks a remarkable streak of No. 1 debuts for Keys. All four of her previous albums -- three studio sets plus an "Unplugged" release -- all debuted at No. 1. However, this doesn't mean Keys doesn't have a chance of eventually reaching No. 1. The set could rise to the top next month when (and if) the Boyle hysteria dies down.

• Keys' "Element" is one of only four albums released last week to debut on the Billboard 200 this week. The second-biggest new arrival to the tally is Robin Thicke's "Sex Therapy: The Session," which begins counseling at No. 9 with 123,000. It's the singer's third top 10 set in a row, following "The Evolution of Robin Thicke" (No. 5 in 2007) and "Something Else" (No. 3 in 2008). The latter album opened with a sales frame of 137,000 copies in October of that year.

• To find the other two completely new-to-the-market albums on the chart, we have to scroll down to Nos. 172 and 198. That's where we find, respectively, the soundtrack to the new James Cameron film "Avatar" (10,000 copies) and Phil Vassar's "Traveling Circus" (9,000 copies).

• But let's get back to the top 10, where after five weeks stuck at No. 2, Andrea Bocelli's "My Christmas" slides to No. 3 with 390,000 (down just 3%). The seasonal set has blown through 1.9 million copies and is now his third-best seller after "Romanza" (released in 1997; 4.2 million sold) and "Sogno" (1999; 2.5 million).

• Taylor Swift is at No. 4 for a second week with "Fearless," shifting 239,000 (up 42%), while Carrie Underwood's "Play On" (153,000; up 44%) and Lady Gaga's "The Fame" (141,000; up 37%) both hold steady at Nos. 5 and 6, respectively. At No. 7 and up two spots, with another 140,000 copies sold, Michael Buble's "Crazy Love" surpasses 1 million in total sales. One rung below Buble is fellow B-boy Justin Bieber with his "My World" EP holding at No. 8 with 127,000 (up 31%). Lastly, the second volume of the "Glee" TV soundtrack falls from No. 3 to No. 10 with 111,000 in its second week (down 36%). Meanwhile, the first "Glee" set -- down from No. 11 to No. 14 -- sells 95,000 this week (up 11%), pushing its total sales past the half-million mark, to 521,000.

• Overall album sales in this past chart week (ending Dec. 20) totaled 15.14 million units, up 26% compared to the sum last week (12.00 million) and down 12% compared to the same sales week of 2008 (17.16 million). Year to date album sales stand at 357.5 million, down 13% compared to the same total at this point last year (411.4 million).

• Taking an early peek at next week's Billboard 200 chart, it's looking like Boyle will again block another diva from the No. 1 slot.

• Industry sources suggest that Boyle's "I Dreamed a Dream" could sell another 500,000 by week's end on Sunday (Dec. 27) night. That will be enough to fend off queen of hip-hop/soul Mary J. Blige's just-released "Stronger With Each Tear." It's on course to sell perhaps around 300,000 to 350,000 -- and possibly more. Blige's last release, "Growing Pains," was released on Dec. 18, 2007 and bowed at No. 2 with 629,000. It moved to No. 1 the following week.

• "Stronger" is Blige's third studio set in a row to be released on the eve of Christmas. "The Breakthrough" started the trend back in 2005, when it launched at No. 1 with 727,000 following its release on Dec. 20.

• The next best debut will likely be the "We Are Young Money" collaborations album featuring artists on Lil Wayne's Young Money label. The rapper himself appears on the majority of the set's tracks, in addition to such artists like Jae Millz, Gudda Gudda and Mack Maine. The set is projected to move somewhere between 100,000 and 120,000 copies.

• Also of note is the reissue of Eminem's "Relapse" album with additional tracks. The combined sales of the deluxe package along with the original release may be in the range of 85,000 to 100,000.

• Other albums that will debut on the chart, but with less impressive opening-week figures, include Mudvayne's self-titled set (with perhaps 15,000 to 20,000) and the "Nine" film soundtrack (also with 15,000 to 20,000).

• Nielsen SoundScan's sales tracking week, as reflected in Billboard's sales charts, runs from Monday through Sunday of each week. Next week's album charts will be revealed on Wednesday, Dec. 30 and will reflect data through the week ending Sunday, Dec. 27.


MARKET WATCH

• Album units, current chart week: 15.14 million units
• UP 26% from last week's charts: 12.00 million units
• DOWN 12% from same week, 2008: 17.16 million units
• This week: the top 11 albums on the Billboard 200 sell more than 100,000 copies.
• This week last year on The Billboard 200: Taylor Swift's "Fearless" held at No. 1 with 330,000 (up 33%) while Keyshia Cole's "A Different Me" started at No. 2 with 322,000 and Jamie Foxx's "Intuition" bowed at No. 3 with 265,000. Fall Out Boy's "Folie a Deux" rounded out the debuts in the top 10, entering at No. 8 with 150,000.


A LOOK AHEAD

• Among the albums released this week, due on next week's charts: Mary J. Blige's "Stronger With Each Tear," the Young Money collaborations album "We Are Young Money" and the reissue of Eminem's "Relapse."

• Next week's Billboard 200 competes with the same week in 2008 when: Taylor Swift's "Fearless" was fixed at No. 1 with 262,000 while the chart's highest debut came at No. 81 with Brutha's self-titled album (21,000 copies).

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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