Country icon George Strait claims his fourth No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 and whopping 22nd chart-topper on Top Country Albums as "Troubadour" bows in the penthouse on both lists ... R.E.M. earns its best debut -- and highest charting album -- since 1996 as "Accelerate" starts at No. 2 ... Rapper Trina finally secures her first top 10 album on the Billboard 200 chart as does legendary singer Van Morrison ... In Progress Reports, Puddle of Mudd celebrates a No. 1 single on the Modern Rock chart while developing acts Flobots and Metro Station make waves.


FLASH POINTS


• Country king George Strait nabs his fourth No. 1 album on The Billboard 200 as "Troubadour" starts with 166,000. Over on Top Country Albums, Strait celebrates his 22nd chart-topper -- increasing his tally as the artist with the most No. 1s. The Billboard 200 has seen at least one new entry from Strait every year since 1984; while Top Country Albums has welcomed new Strait sets on a yearly basis since 1981. All told, he's racked up 38 albums on the country tally, stretching back to "Strait Country." On Hot Country Songs, the new album's lead single, "I Saw God Today," maintains its bullets at No. 2, stuck behind Trace Adkins' "You're Gonna Miss This."

• R.E.M. fires up The Billboard 200 with its highest debut -- and highest charting album -- since 1996 as its new "Accelerate" bows at No. 2 with 115,000. It's the best rank for the band since "New Adventures in Hi-Fi" debuted at No. 2 in September 1996. The trio has charted numerous times since then -- with three studio sets, five hits compilations and a live album -- but none have gotten any higher than No. 3 (with "Up" in 1998) ... R.E.M. has hit the promotional trail hard in the past two weeks, with appearances on "Today" (April 1), "The Colbert Report" (April 2), CBS "Sunday Morning" (March 30) and National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" (March 24). Additionally, they were featured in the Los Angeles Times (March 22) and the New York Times (March 30).

• Rapper Trina finally lands her first top 10 album on the Billboard 200 as "Still Da Baddest" bows at No. 6 with 47,000. Her last set, "Glamorest Life," entered at No. 11 off 77,000. Clearly, with overall album sales not what they used to be, it doesn't take as much to get into the top 10 anymore. Still, no matter how you slice it, a top 10 album is a top 10 album and something to crow about.

• It's a busy week on the Billboard 200 this week, with 31 albums bowing on the chart. In the top 20, we also greet new entries from Van Morrison's "Keep It Simple" (No. 10 with 37,000 -- his first top 10 album), the Rolling Stones' soundtrack to its Martin Scorsese-directed concert film "Shine a Light" (No. 11 with 37,000), Black Keys' "Attack and Release" (No. 14 with 29,000) and Sevendust's "Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow" (No. 19 with 25,000).




The Billboard 200

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
*1 New GEORGE STRAIT Troubadour (MCA Nashville ) *11 New THE ROLLING STONES Martin Scorsese: Shine A Light (Soundtrack) (Rolling Stones / Polydor / Interscope / IGA)
*2 New R.E.M. Accelerate (Warner Bros. ) 12 2 PANIC AT THE DISCO Pretty.Odd. (Decaydance / Fueled By Ramen / AG)
3 5 VARIOUS ARTISTS NOW 27 (Sony BMG / EMI / Universal / Zomba / Sony BMG Strategic Marketing Group) 13 8 JACK JOHNSON Sleep Through The Static (Brushfire / UMRG)
4 1 DAY26 DAY26 (Bad Boy / AG) *14 New THE BLACK KEYS Attack & Release (Nonesuch / Warner Bros.)
*5 16 SOUNDTRACK Alvin And The Chipmunks (Fox / Razor & Tie) 15 9 FLO RIDA Mail On Sunday (Poe Boy / Atlantic / AG)
*6 New TRINA Still Da Baddest (Slip-N-Slide ) 16 14 TAYLOR SWIFT Taylor Swift (Big Machine )
7 4 DANITY KANE Welcome To The Dollhouse (Bad Boy / AG) 17 10 SARA BAREILLES Little Voice (Epic / Sony Music)
8 3 COUNTING CROWS Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings (DGC / Geffen / IGA) 18 7 THE RACONTEURS Consolers Of The Lonely (Third Man / Warner Bros.)
9 6 RICK ROSS Trilla (Slip-N-Slide / Def Jam / IDJMG) *19 New SEVENDUST Chapter VII: Hope & Sorrow (7Bros / Asylum / Warner Bros.)
*10 New VAN MORRISON Keep It Simple (Exile / Polydor / Lost Highway) 20 15 ALAN JACKSON Good Time (Arista Nashville / SBN)
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week





MARKET WATCH

• Album units, current chart week: 7.99 million units
• UP 3.5% from last issue's charts: 7.71 million units
• DOWN 24.5% from same week, 2007: 10.58 million units
• This week: the top two albums sell more than 100,000 copies.
• This week last year on The Billboard 200: the "Now 24" hits set climbed one spot to No. 1, celebrating its first week at the top of the chart (213,000). Tim McGraw's "Let It Go" slipped to No. 2 with 177,000 while five albums bowed in the top 10. The top six albums each sold 100,000.





BORDERLINES

• The No. 200 album this week, Ledisi's "Lost and Found" (Verve/VG), sold 4,000.
• The No. 200 album for the same week of 2007, the Game's "Doctor's Advocate" (Geffen/IGA), sold 5,000.
• Average total of the No. 200 album for the same week of the year during the past 10 years (1999-2008): 5,571.



PROGRESS REPORTS


• Puddle of Mudd scores its second Modern Rock chart-topper, and first in more than six years, as "Psycho" slashes 2-1. The quartet first reached the pole position in January 2002 with "Blurry," which led for nine weeks. The group has since hit No. 2 with "She Hates Me" and No. 3 with "Drift and Die."

• Eclectic hip-hop group Flobots bows on Modern Rock at No. 27 with "Handlebars," the Denver act's first charting single. Its album, "Fight With Tools," which was released last September, bows on Top Heatseekers this week at No. 36. "Handlebars" is getting handsome support from leading modern rock stations including KROQ and KYSR in Los Angeles and XTRA Chicago ... Universal Republic recently picked up the heretofore Indie act, and will issue its "Fight With Tools" set digitally on April 22, followed by a physical release on on May 20.

• Metro Station's self-titled album rises 27-15 on Top Heatseekers with its third straight sales gain thanks to increased exposure of its hit single "Shake It." This week, the tune gives the band its first taste of a Billboard/Radio and Records airplay chart, as it bows at No. 35 on the CHR/Top 40 tally. "Metro Station" has sold 40,000 since its release last September.







A LOOK AHEAD

• Among the titles released this week, due on next week's charts: Leona Lewis' "Spirit," James Otto's "Sunset Man," Cut Copy's "In Ghost Colours" and P.O.D.'s "When Angels and Serpents Dance."

• Next week's Billboard 200 competes with the same week in 2007 when: the "Now 24" compilation held tight at No. 1 for a second week. Bright Eyes' "Cassadaga" was the chart's top debut at No. 4 with 58,000. No albums sold more than 100,000.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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