Mariah Carey's "E=MC2" holds at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for a second week (down 61%) while Leona Lewis' "Spirit" stays firm at No. 2, earning a gain after her "American Idol" performance last week ... The Billboard 200 greets an eclectic group of debuts in its top 20, with new releases from comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, pop star Ashlee Simpson, indie hip-hop act Atmosphere, country singer Phil Vassar and rock band Story of the Year. In other debut news, indie pop duo the Weepies makes its Billboard 200 bow, Whitesnake returns with its first new studio album in more than a decade, rock act Tokyo Police Club starts strong, and British band Elbow also makes a splash.



FLASH POINTS


• While Mariah Carey's "E=MC2" holds tight at No. 1 (182,000; down 61%) in its second week, Leona Lewis' "Spirit" posts a 1% increase at No. 2 after she performed on the "American Idol" results show last week (April 23). A 1% gain may not seem like a big deal, however, it's the first time an album that debuted at No. 1 has posted any sort of gain in its second or third week since December 2006. That's when Ciara's "The Evolution" earned a 35% increase in its third week in the thick of the Christmas holiday shopping season.

• On "Idol," Lewis sang her Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 single "Bleeding Love," which motors 3-1 on Hot Digital Songs with 236,000 downloads this week (up 30%). Lewis' "Spirit" also benefits from a $9.99 sale tag at Best Buy. Meanwhile, Carey's "E=MC2" was priced for less than $10 at Target, Best Buy, Circuit City and Wal-Mart.

• The very top of the Billboard 200 albums chart is a tad quiet, considering we had eight debuts at No. 1 in as many weeks, culminating with Carey's bow in the penthouse. Next week things should get back into the groove, as it is likely that Madonna's "Hard Candy," released yesterday (April 29), will open at No. 1.

• At No. 3 on the Billboard 200 this week, the self-titled set of comedy/pop duo Flight of the Conchords (Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement) bows with 52,000. The New Zealand pair also stars in its own HBO series, and this new set doubles as a soundtrack to the show. The album bows at No. 1 on the Top Soundtracks chart as well ... Popster Ashlee Simpson's third effort starts at No. 4 with 47,000. Her first two albums, 2004's "Autobiography" and 2005's "I Am Me," both started at No. 1 with 398,000 and 220,000, respectively.

• Indie hip-hop act Atmosphere floats in at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 with "When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold," shifting a career-best 36,000. It instantly becomes the highest-charting album for the Rhymesayers record label, which previously peaked at No. 66 with the 2005 Atmosphere set "You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having." Last year, Rhymesayers pacted with Warner Music Group's independent label group for marketing, distribution and sales services. Warner's indie distribution arm, Alternative Distribution Alliance, is handling the Atmosphere release. The same goes for Flight of the Conchords' set, which is on Sub Pop. The good news for ADA doesn't end there, as it is handling Story of the Year's Epitaph debut at No. 18 (21,000). The rock band previously recorded for Maverick and was distributed through WEA. Its last set, "In the Wake of Determination," debuted and peaked at No. 19 in 2005.

• Country singer Phil Vassar notches his highest-charting studio set on the Billboard 200 as "Prayer of a Common Man" bows at No. 10 with 27,000. While his 2006 "Greatest Hits Volume 1" package also hit No. 10 (65,000), his previous high-water mark with a studio effort was "American Child" at No. 44 in 2002 ... Pop duo the Weepies see its "Hideaway" album land at No. 31 on the big chart with 14,000. Its last album, "Say I Am You," managed a No. 41 peak on the new artist chart Top Heatseekers, but never made it to the Billboard 200 ... Veteran rock band Whitesnake returns with its first studio album in more than a decade as "Good to Be Bad" slithers in at No. 70 on the Billboard 200 with 8,000. The act, best-known for its 1987 No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 single "Here I Go Again," hasn't visited the Billboard 200 albums chart since 1994, when "Whitesnake's Greatest Hits" reached No. 161 ... Skipping further down the big chart, Tokyo Police Club starts at No. 106 with "Elephant Shell" (6,000), and Elbow begins at No. 109 with "Seldom Seen Kid" (6,000).




The Billboard 200

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
1 1 MARIAH CAREY E=MC2 (Island / IDJMG) 11 3 MILEY CYRUS Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: The Best Of Both Worlds Concert (Hollywood / Walt Disney)
*2 2 LEONA LEWIS Spirit (SYCO / J / RMG) 12 7 SOUNDTRACK Alvin And The Chipmunks (Fox / Razor & Tie)
*3 New FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS Flight Of The Conchords (Soundtrack) (HBO / Sub Pop) 13 12 JAMES OTTO Sunset Man (Raybaw / Warner Bros. (Nashville) / WRN)
*4 New ASHLEE SIMPSON Bittersweet World (Geffen / Interscope) 14 13 JACK JOHNSON Sleep Through The Static (Brushfire / UMRG)
*5 New ATMOSPHERE When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold (Rhymesayers Entertainment / ILG) 15 11 RICK ROSS Trilla (Slip-N-Slide / Def Jam / IDJMG)
6 5 VARIOUS ARTISTS NOW 27 (Sony BMG / EMI / Universal / Zomba / Sony BMG Strategic Marketing Group) 16 4 LADY ANTEBELLUM Lady Antebellum (Capitol Nashville )
7 8 SOUNDTRACK Juno (Fox / Rhino / AG) 17 9 R.E.M. Accelerate (Warner Bros. )
8 6 GEORGE STRAIT Troubadour (MCA Nashville / UMGN) *18 New STORY OF THE YEAR The Black Swan (Epitaph )
9 10 TAYLOR SWIFT Taylor Swift (Big Machine ) *19 46 MICHAEL BUBLE Call Me Irresponsible (143 / Reprise / Warner Bros.)
*10 New PHIL VASSAR Prayer Of A Common Man (Universal South ) 20 16 JORDIN SPARKS Jordin Sparks (19 / Jive / Zomba)
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week




MARKET WATCH

• Album units, current chart week: 6.87 million units
• DOWN 8% from last issue's charts: 7.50 million units
• DOWN 11% from same week, 2007: 7.69 million units
• This week: Only the No. 1 album sells more than 100,000 copies.
• This week last year on the Billboard 200: Avril Lavigne's "Best Damn Thing" held at No. 1 for a second week, moving 122,000. Joe's "Ain't Nothing Like Me" started at No. 2 with 98,000 while Arctic Monkeys' "Favourite Worst Nightmare" entered at No. 7 with 44,000. Only the No. 1 album sold more than 100,000.





BORDERLINES

• The No. 10 album this week, Phil Vassar's "Prayer of a Common Man" (Universal South), sold 27,000.
• The No. 10 album for the same week of 2007, Tim McGraw's "Let It Go" (Curb), sold sold 37,000.
• Average total of the No. 10 album for the same week of the year during the past 10 years (1999-2008): 58,878.



PROGRESS REPORTS


• Kenny Chesney hops 11-10 on the Hot Country Songs chart with "Better As a Memory." It snaps a tie with Tim McGraw for most top 10 singles on the Country list since 2000. Chesney bumps his total to 24 to pass McGraw's output in the 2000s. "Memory" is Chesney's fourth top 10 from his current set, "Just Who I Am: Poets and Pirates," and his 21st consecutive top 10 overall (excluding holiday fare and non-promoted album cuts), the format's longest active top 10 streak. The last artists to string together more top 10s were Alan Jackson with 27 between 1990 and 1998, and Alabama with 42 between 1980 and 1993, including an incredible 32 No. 1s in that span. Chesney last fell short of the top 10 when "The Tin Man" peaked at No. 19 in October 2001.

• Weezer's "Pork and Beans" takes the biggest jump into the top five on the Modern Rock chart (moving 19-3) since Smashing Pumpkins' "Tarantula" wove a 30-5 climb last June. "Pork" is also the first single leap into the top 10 in only its second week on the chart since Foo Fighters' "The Pretender" moved 16-3 last August.

• Speaking of Foo Fighters, the band is the fourth act to place three songs in the top 20 simultaneously. This week, "Let It Die" moves 21-15 in its fourth week to join former chart-toppers "The Pretender" (No. 12) and "Long Road to Ruin" (No. 20) in the chart's upper half. Linkin Park was the last artist to accomplish the feat, doing so for three weeks in November. U2 and R.E.M. each turned the trick in 1988, with the former act equaling the accomplishment in 1992.



A LOOK AHEAD

• Among the titles released this week, due on next week's charts: Madonna's "Hard Candy," Mudcrutch's "Mudcrutch," Carly Simon's "This Kind of Love," Def Leppard's "Songs From the Sparkle Lounge," Portishead's "Third," Lyfe Jennings' "Lyfe Change" and the Roots' "Rising Down."

• Next week's Billboard 200 competes with the same week in 2007 when: Ne-Yo led a busy week on the chart when his "Because of You" set bowed atop the list with 251,000. Michael Buble's "Call Me Irresponsible" started in the runner-up slot with 212,000 while new efforts from Rush, Tori Amos, Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton started at Nos. 3, 5, 6 and 8, respectively. Only the top two albums sold more than 100,000.