It's all about Britney Spears and her "Circus" as the diva earns her fifth No. 1 album. It arrives with 505,000, the seventh-biggest sales week of 2008 and Spears' best frame since "In the Zone" premiered with 609,000 at No. 1 in 2003 . . . Akon is the other lone debut in the top 20, as his "Freedom" flies in at No. 7 with 111,000 . . . In Progress Reports, we've got updates on new No. 1 singles from Montgomery Gentry, Kings of Leon and Faith Hill.


FLASH POINTS


• Oops, she did it again! Britney Spears earns her fifth No. 1 album as "Circus" bows atop the Billboard 200 with 505,000. The Jive set is the singer's first chart-topper since "In the Zone" started in the penthouse in 2003. With her half-million entry, Spears becomes the only artist in Nielsen SoundScan history to have four albums debut with 500,000 or more. Previously, her second, third and fourth studio sets all racked up half-million weeks. 2000's "Oops! I Did It Again" started with 1.3 million, 2001's "Britney" began with 746,000 and the aforementioned "In the Zone" zoomed onto the chart with 609,000 . . . Her first album, "Baby One More Time," debuted with 121,000 at No. 1 in January 1999, while her last studio effort, "Blackout," bowed with 290,000 at No. 2 last year.

• Since SoundScan began tracking data in 1991, only four acts -- aside from Spears -- have notched three 500,000-starts: 2Pac, 50 Cent, Garth Brooks and Jay-Z.

• "Circus" also notches the seventh-biggest sales week of 2008, following the debuts of Lil Wayne's "Tha Carter III" (1,006,000), AC/DC's "Black Ice" (784,000), Coldplay's "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends" (721,000), Taylor Swift's "Fearless" (592,000), T.I.'s "Paper Trail" (568,000) and Jonas Brothers' "A Little Bit Longer" (525,000).

• Among female artists, only four have earned more No. 1 albums: Barbra Streisand (eight), Madonna (seven) and Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson (both with six). All five of Spears' chart-toppers debuted at No. 1 . . . Elsewhere in the diva showdown department, Spears can now claim the title of the woman with the most albums to debut at No. 1. She breaks away from a five-way tie she was previously in with Madonna, Carey, Jackson and Alicia Keys (all with four No. 1 debuts).

• Last week's Billboard 200 king, Kanye West's "808s & Heartbreak," slips to No. 4 with 142,000 (down 69%). Meanwhile, only one other album debuts in the top 20 this week, Akon's "Freedom." It starts at No. 7 with 111,000. His last set, 2006's "Konvicted," bowed at No. 2 with 284,000 and spent 68 weeks on the chart. So far, it has sold 2.9 million.



The Billboard 200

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
*1 New BRITNEY SPEARS Circus (Jive / Zomba) 11 12 AC/DC Black Ice (Columbia / Sony Music)
2 2 TAYLOR SWIFT Fearless (Big Machine ) 12 13 IL DIVO The Promise (SYCO / Columbia / Sony Music)
3 4 BEYONCE I Am...Sasha Fierce (Music World / Columbia / Sony Music) 13 17 FAITH HILL Joy To The World (Warner Bros. (Nashville) / WRN)
4 1 KANYE WEST 808s & Heartbreak (Roc-A-Fella / Def Jam / IDJMG) 14 18 ENYA And Winter Came... (Reprise / Warner Bros.)
5 7 NICKELBACK Dark Horse (Roadrunner ) 15 5 LUDACRIS Theater Of The Mind (DTP / Def Jam / IDJMG)
6 8 SOUNDTRACK Twilight (Summit / Chop Shop / Atlantic / AG) 16 6 THE KILLERS Day & Age (Island / IDJMG)
*7 New AKON Freedom (Konvict / Upfront / SRC / Universal Motown / UMRG) *17 28 ELVIS PRESLEY Christmas Duets (RCA Nashville / SBN)
8 11 SOUNDTRACK High School Musical 3: Senior Year (Walt Disney ) 18 3 GUNS N' ROSES Chinese Democracy (Black Frog / Geffen / IGA)
9 9 VARIOUS ARTISTS Now 29 (Universal / EMI / Sony BMG / Zomba / UMe) 19 19 DAVID ARCHULETA David Archuleta (19 / Jive / Zomba)
10 10 DAVID COOK David Cook (19 / RCA / RMG) *20 33 HARRY CONNICK, JR. What A Night! A Christmas Album (Columbia / Sony Music)
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week




MARKET WATCH

• Album units, current chart week: 11.3 million units
• DOWN 7.3% from last issue's charts: 12.2 million units
• DOWN 21.7% from same week, 2007: 14.5 million units
• This week: The top seven albums each sell more than 100,000 copies.
• This week last year on the Billboard 200: Josh Groban's "Noel" held firm at No. 1 with 581,000 (up 8%) while Alicia Keys' "As I Am" rose to No. 2 with 234,000, despite a 9% decline in sales. The chart's top debut was the self-titled first album from Blake Lewis at No. 10 with 98,000. The top eight albums each sold more than 100,000.





BORDERLINES

• The No. 20 album this week, Harry Connick Jr.'s "What a Night! A Christmas Album" (Columbia), sold 48,000.
• The No. 20 album for the same week of 2007, the soundtrack to "Hannah Montana" (Walt Disney), sold 57,000.
• Average total of the No. 20 album for the same week of the year during the past 10 years (1999-2008): 96,662.



PROGRESS REPORTS

• Montgomery Gentry rolls its way to the duo's fifth No. 1 on Hot Country Songs as "Roll With Me" skips from No. 3 to No. 1 in its 20th chart week. It's the act's second straight chart-topper, following "Back When I Knew It All," and its fifth overall. Though the duo made its chart debut back in 1999, it didn't garner its first No. 1 until 2004 with "If You Ever Stop Loving Me."


• The Modern Rock radio airplay chart finally gets a new No. 1 as Kings of Leon's "Sex on Fire" climbs one position to the top this week. It's the first No. 1 for the band -- and only its second chart hit, following 2005's No. 23-peaking "The Bucket." Kings of Leon replace the Offspring's "You're Gonna Go Far Kid," which had reigned at No. 1 for the past 11 consecutive weeks. Don't cry for the Offspring, though, for its new single, "Kristy, Are You Doing OK?," bows at No. 34. The latter is the group's 23rd chart hit. It ties the band with Green Day for the fifth-most Modern Rock hits in the 20-year history of the chart. Only U2 (35), Pearl Jam (32), Red Hot Chili Peppers (27) and R.E.M. (26) have more.

• Take it from Faith Hill, "A Baby Changes Everything." The song becomes her fourth No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart this week -- her first since 2002's "Cry." The new song, a cut from Hill's seasonal effort "Joy to the World," will likely perform strongly on AC radio during the next few weeks, as most stations in that format have switched to playing only Christmas music.


A LOOK AHEAD

• Among the titles released this week, due on next week's charts: Common's "Universal Mind Control," Maroon 5's "Call and Response," Musiq Soulchild's "On My Radio" and Brandy's "Human."

• Next week's Billboard 200 competes with the same week in 2007 when: Josh Groban's "Noel" spent a fourth week at No. 1, selling 669,000 (up 15%). The chart's top debut came from Bow Wow and Omarion with their collaboration album "Face Off" at No. 11 with 107,000. The top 12 albums each sold more than 100,000.