U2 bows atop the Billboard 200 with its seventh No. 1 album, "No Line on the Horizon," shifting 484,000 . . . That's the biggest sales week the chart has seen since December, when Britney Spears' "Circus" blew in with 505,000 . . . Neko Case makes a grand entrance on the chart, too, as her "Middle Cyclone" arrives at No. 3 -- her highest-charting album yet . . . In Progress Reports, we've got news on the latest top 10 hit for Rodney Atkins, the return of the Black Eyed Peas and Asher Roth's rising single "I Love College." [THIS COLUMN WAS UPDATED ON MARCH 11 AT 9:40 AM PST.]


FLASH POINTS

• Try to be shocked, but U2's "No Line On the Horizon" debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with 484,000, giving the band its seventh chart-topping set. Among all groups, they are now tied with Led Zeppelin for the third-most No. 1s. Only the Beatles (19) and the Rolling Stones (9), have more. [NOTE: We previously stated that U2 was in second place with Led Zeppelin, behind only the Beatles. That was an error.]

• U2's entrance brings the Billboard 200 its best sales week since Britney Spears' "Circus" arrived at No. 1 in early December with 505,000. "Horizon" is the third album to debut at No. 1 this year following efforts from fellow rock acts Bruce Springsteen ("Working on a Dream") and the Fray ("The Fray"). A very sizable 32% of the first week for "Horizon" was made up of digital albums -- 155,000. That marks the second-biggest frame for a digital album; only Coldplay's "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends" entered with more (288,000 downloads) last June.

• The band had high visibility on U.S. TV last week, with a five-night stand on CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman" and a March 6 performance on ABC's "Good Morning America." It was the first time a musical guest had performed an entire week on "Letterman" and "GMA" marked U2's first live morning show performance.

• U2 first topped the Billboard 200 in 1987 with "The Joshua Tree," spending nine consecutive weeks at No. 1. That album remains the band's longest-running chart-topper. The group followed it with four No. 1s in a row: "Rattle and Hum" (1988), "Achtung Baby" (1991), "Zooropa" (1993) and "Pop" (1997). The band returned to No. 1 again in 2004 with "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb." And no, 2000's "All That You Can't Leave Behind" didn't hit No. 1. It peaked at No. 3 in its debut week, lodged behind debuts from Jay-Z and OutKast. But "Behind" did spend 94 weeks on the Billboard 200, the longest chart run of any U2 album going back to "Achtung Baby's" 97-week stay.

• The band's last studio album, "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," was released during Thanksgiving week of 2004 and bowed with an impressive 840,000. Those eager to complain about the handsome start of "Horizon" in comparison to the bow for "Bow" should be reminded that the always-busy shopping frame of Thanksgiving week undoubtedly helped the latter set's big debut.

• While seeing U2 at No. 1 isn't a surprise, it's got to be jarring to discover that Neko Case's "Middle Cyclone" arrives at No. 3. The set shifted 44,000 units last week (with 30% of those as downloads), giving the artist her highest-charting album and best sales week. (And that's even counting her work as a member of the New Pornographers.) Case's last album, 2006's "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood," debuted and peaked at No. 54 with an 18,000 start.




The Billboard 200

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
*1 New U2 No Line On The Horizon (Island / Interscope / IGA) 11 10 KANYE WEST 808s & Heartbreak (Roc-A-Fella / Def Jam / IDJMG)
2 1 TAYLOR SWIFT Fearless (Big Machine ) 12 2 LAMB OF GOD Wrath (Epic / Sony Music)
*3 New NEKO CASE Middle Cyclone (Anti- / Epitaph) *13 New TONY OKUNGBOWA Total Dance 2009 (ThriveDance / Thrive)
*4 7 LADY GAGA The Fame (Streamline / KonLive / Cherrytree / Interscope / IGA) 14 12 KEYSHIA COLE A Different Me (Imani / Geffen / IGA)
5 5 NICKELBACK Dark Horse (Roadrunner ) 15 3 JONAS BROTHERS The 3D Concert Experience (Soundtrack) (Hollywood )
*6 9 JAMIE FOXX Intuition (J / RMG) 16 17 SOUNDTRACK Twilight (Summit / Chop Shop / Atlantic / AG)
*7 8 THE FRAY The Fray (Epic / Sony Music) 17 19 PINK Funhouse (LaFace / JLG)
8 6 BEYONCE I Am...Sasha Fierce (Music World / Columbia / Sony Music) *18 24 BRITNEY SPEARS Circus (Jive / JLG)
9 4 SOUNDTRACK Slumdog Millionaire (Interscope / IGA) 19 18 BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN Working On A Dream (Columbia / Sony Music)
10 11 T.I. Paper Trail (Grand Hustle / Atlantic / AG) 20 23 KINGS OF LEON Only By The Night (RCA / RMG)
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week







MARKET WATCH

• Album units, current chart week: 7 million units
• UP 1.6% from last week's charts: 6.9 million units
• DOWN 8.6% from same week, 2008: 7.7 million units
• This week: Only the No. 1 album sells more than 100,000 copies.
• This week last year on the Billboard 200: Alan Jackson's "Good Time" started with 119,000 and replaced another Jackson at No. 1, Janet Jackson, whose "Discipline" slipped to No. 3 with 57,000 (down 68%) in its second week.



BORDERLINES

• The No. 200 album this week, Keith Urban's "Greatest Hits" (Capitol Nashville), sold 3,000.
• The No. 200 album for the same week of 2008, James Blunt's "All the Lost Souls" (Custard/Atlantic/AG), sold 4,000.
• Average total of the No. 200 album for the same week of the year during the past 10 years (2000-2009): 5,112.


PROGRESS REPORTS

• Rodney Atkins' "It's America" climbs to No. 9 this week on Hot Country Songs, giving the singer his sixth top 10 hit. "America" is the title track from his forthcoming Curb album, due March 31. Four of Atkins' previous top 10 hits ended up reaching No. 1: "If You're Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)," "Watching You," "These Are My People" and "Cleaning This Gun (Come On in Boy)."

• New hip-hop artist Asher Roth reaches a number of radio airplay charts with his fast-selling "I Love College" single. The song, which has sold 360,000 digital downloads in its four weeks of release, debuts at No. 37 on both the Modern Rock and Mainstream Top 40 airplay tallies, while jumping from No. 23 to No. 19 on the Rhythmic list. The SchoolBoy/Loud/SRC/Universal Motown artist's debut album, "Asleep in the Bread Aisle," drops April 20.

• The Black Eyed Peas return to the charts with their first new material in nearly four years as "Boom Boom Pow" debuts at No. 39 on the Mainstream Top 40 chart and No. 34 on the Rhythmic chart. "Boom" is the lead single from the Peas' upcoming set "The E.N.D. (The Energy Never Dies)," slated for release June 9. "Boom" is the Peas' 11th Mainstream Top 40 hit. On that tally, the group charted five singles from its last album, 2005's "Monkey Business." While the Peas were taking a break the past few years, the group's Fergie kept herself busy with her solo debut, "The Dutchess," which spawned six Mainstream Top 40 hits between 2006 and 2008.


A LOOK AHEAD

• Among the titles released this week, due on next week's charts: Kelly Clarkson's "All I Ever Wanted," The-Dream's "Love Vs. Money," J. Holiday "Round 2," Nat King Cole's "Re-Generations," Chris Cornell's "Scream," Taylor Hicks' "The Distance" and Sarah Brightman's "Symphony: Live in Vienna."

• Next week's Billboard 200 competes with the same week in 2008 when: Rick Ross' "Trilla" thrilled at No. 1 in its debut week with 198,000. The "Now 27" compilation started in the runner-up slot with 167,000, while Snoop Dogg's "Ego Trippin'" entered at No. 3 (137,000).