Mariah Carey's "Ballads" is the Billboard 200's highest debut, arriving at No. 10, while another romantic effort, Frank Sinatra's "Seduction: Sinatra Sings of Love," also makes a good start . . . It's a great week for indie rock acts, as Andrew Bird, Animal Collective and Bon Iver all debut in the top 20 of the big chart . . . Kelly Clarkson makes big news with her new single "My Life Would Suck Without You" . . . And in Progress Reports, we've got updates on Coldplay, Blake Shelton and U2.


FLASH POINTS

• Love is in the air and on the Billboard 200 as Mariah Carey's "Ballads" compilation is the chart's Hot Shot Debut at No. 10 with 29,000. It's the diva's 16th charting set and 14th top 10. Released through Columbia/Legacy, the new collection boasts downtempo hits and album cuts. It's the fourth best-of set that Carey has charted, following "#1's" (No. 4 in 1998), "Greatest Hits" (No. 52 in 2001) and "The Remixes" (No. 26 in 2003). You have to figure "Ballads" will keep singing on the chart as we get closer to Valentine's Day, as it seems like a natural gift purchase.

• Taylor Swift's "Fearless" remains at No. 1 (with 63,000), racking up an eighth week at the top. It's safe to assume she'll slip from the throne next week, as Bruce Springsteen's "Working on a Dream," released yesterday (Jan. 27), is on track for a No. 1 debut.

• Chicago-born singer/songwriter Andrew Bird makes a grand entrance on the Billboard 200, as his "Noble Beast" enters at No. 12 with 26,000. He's charted just once before on the Billboard 200, with "Armchair Apocrypha," which debuted and peaked at No. 76 with 11,000. The new Fat Possum album benefits from being available in no less than three distinct physical editions. There's the standard 14-track version, a double-vinyl LP set with a poster and other goodies, and then a third version packaged with a bonus disc of instrumental recordings.

• The early part of the year is always a great time for indie-minded or under-the-radar acts to gain chart traction, as Bird proves. But he's not the only one making waves this week, for Animal Collective's "Merriweather Post Pavilion" breaks onto the Billboard 200 at No. 13 with 25,000. While this is the Domino Records set's first week on the big chart, it actually debuted two weeks ago at No. 38 on Top Independent Albums based solely on vinyl LP sales. Last week (Jan. 20), the CD and digital versions of "Merriweather" were released, thus causing this week's big Billboard 200 bow.

• Another member of the indie crew this week is Bon Iver, whose four-song EP "Blood Bank" enters the Billboard 200 at No. 16 with 23,000. The set profits from high-visibility placement in Apple's iTunes Music Store last week -- 79% of the Jagjaguwar set's sales week was made up of digital downloads. (Some eagle-eye chart watchers might have noticed that last week, "Blood Bank" actually charted on the Hot Singles Sales list with minimal sales, a week in advance of the set's digital release. The set has since been classified as an EP and thus it charts on the Billboard 200.) Bon Iver's last full-length set, "For Emma, Forever Ago," recently climbed into the top 100 for the first time and has sold 130,000 since its release in February 2008.

• Among all these independent spirits is a new release from Frank Sinatra at No. 23. His "Seduction: Sinatra Sings of Love" enters with 17,000, just in time for the upcoming Feb. 14 Valentine's Day holiday. The Chairman last appeared on the Billboard 200 with 2008's Reprise/Warner Bros. greatest-hits set "Nothing But the Best," which debuted and peaked at No. 2 with 99,000 in its first week.

• Switching gears from an original American icon to the first "American Idol," Kelly Clarkson debuts at No. 1 on Hot Digital Songs with "My Life Would Suck Without You," selling 280,000 downloads. The tune is poised to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 when the chart is compiled later today (Jan. 28). If it does, it'll be the biggest jump to No. 1 ever, surpassing Britney Spears' 96-1 vault with "Womanizer" last year. If Clarkson's "Suck" zooms to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, it will be her second chart-topper, following her debut single, 2002's "A Moment Like This."



The Billboard 200

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
1 1 TAYLOR SWIFT Fearless (Big Machine ) 11 11 VARIOUS ARTISTS NOW 29 (Universal / EMI / Sony Music / Zomba / UMe)
2 2 BEYONCE I Am...Sasha Fierce (Music World / Columbia / Sony Music) *12 New ANDREW BIRD Noble Beast (Fat Possum )
3 3 NICKELBACK Dark Horse (Roadrunner ) *13 New ANIMAL COLLECTIVE Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino )
4 5 KANYE WEST 808s & Heartbreak (Roc-A-Fella / Def Jam / IDJMG) 14 10 DAVID COOK David Cook (19 / RCA / RMG)
5 6 SOUNDTRACK Twilight (Summit / Chop Shop / Atlantic / AG) 15 14 PINK Funhouse (LaFace / JLG)
6 9 KEYSHIA COLE A Different Me (Imani / Geffen / IGA) *16 New BON IVER Blood Bank (EP) (Jagjaguwar )
7 7 BRITNEY SPEARS Circus (Jive / JLG) 17 12 AKON Freedom (Konvict / Upfront / SRC / Universal Motown / UMRG)
8 8 JAMIE FOXX Intuition (J / RMG) 18 17 T.I. Paper Trail (Grand Hustle / Atlantic / AG)
9 4 SOUNDTRACK Notorious (Fox / Bad Boy / AG) 19 16 SOUNDTRACK Slumdog Millionaire (Interscope / IGA)
*10 New MARIAH CAREY The Ballads (Columbia / Legacy / Sony Music) 20 18 LADY GAGA The Fame (Streamline / KonLive / Cherrytree / Interscope / IGA)
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week






MARKET WATCH

• Album units, current chart week: 6.4 million units
• UP 9.1% from last week's charts: 5.9 million units
• DOWN 12% from same week, 2008: 7.3 million units
• This week: No albums sell more than 100,000 copies.
• This week last year on the Billboard 200: The soundtrack to "Juno" hit No. 1 for the first time, shifting 65,000 with a 13% gain in sales. Two steps below, at No. 3, Natasha Bedingfield bowed with "Pocketful of Sunshine" (50,000).



BORDERLINES

• The No. 200 album this week, Rascal Flatts' "Still Feels Good" (Lyric Street), sold 3,000.
• The No. 200 album for the same week of 2008, Common's "Finding Forever" (G.O.O.D./Geffen/IGA), sold 3,000.
• Average total of the No. 200 album for the same week of the year during the past 10 years (2000-2009): 4,699.


PROGRESS REPORTS

• U2's "Get On Your Boots" blasts onto the Modern Rock and Triple A radio charts as it arrives at Nos. 8 and 1 on the respective lists. It's the band's highest bow on the Modern Rock chart since 1997, when "Discotheque" opened at No. 3. On the Triple A list, it's the chart's first No. 1 debut. U2's new album, "No Line on the Horizon," will be released March 3 . . . "Boots" is U2's 36th Modern Rock hit, dating back to when "Jesus Christ" debuted at No. 11 on Sept. 17, 1988, the second week of the chart's existence. U2 also continues to reign as the act with the most overall Modern Rock hits, ahead of Pearl Jam's 32.

• On Hot Country Songs, Blake Shelton scores his second straight No. 1 as "She Wouldn't Be Gone" hits the top this week. It follows his cover of Michael Buble's "Home," which spent two weeks in the penthouse starting with the chart dated July 19, 2008. Overall, "She Wouldn't Be Gone" is Shelton's fifth No. 1. His first came with "Austin" on Aug. 11, 2001.

• The success of Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" continues, eight months after it first hit the Billboard charts. This week, the single rises to No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary radio airplay chart, giving the band its first chart-topper on that tally. "Viva" has also hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Hot Digital Songs, Adult Top 40 airplay, Triple A airplay and Modern Rock airplay -- the first song to reach No. 1 on all six lists.



A LOOK AHEAD

• Among the titles released this week, due on next week's charts: Bruce Springsteen's "Working on a Dream," Franz Ferdinand's "Tonight," Renee Olstead's "Skylark," the "Grammy Nominees 2009" compilation, the CD bow of Paul McCartney's live EP "Amoeba's Secret" and Kylie Minogue's remix album "Boombox."

• Next week's Billboard 200 competes with the same week in 2008 when: Alicia Keys' "As I Am" moved back to No. 1 with 61,000 while the previous week's chart-topper, the soundtrack to "Juno," slipped to No. 2 (55,000). Four albums debuted in the top 10: Mars Volta's "Bedlam in Goliath" (No. 3 with 54,000), Bullet for My Valentine's "Scream Aim Fire" (No. 4 with 53,000), the "Grammy Nominees 2008" compilation (No. 5 with 50,000) and the "Hannah Montana 2: Non-Stop Dance Party" set (No. 7 with 40,000).

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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