Josh Groban's "Noel" holds at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 for a fourth week as the set motors through 669,000 ... With the album's total sales up to 2.77 million, it has now eclipsed the "High School Musical 2" soundtrack as 2007's top selling album according to Nielsen SoundScan ... But will it hold on? ... Meanwhile, of last week's crop of new releases none were able to debut in the top 10 ... In Progress Reports we've got updates on Linkin Park, Foo Fighters, Brad Paisley, Garth Brooks, Huey Lewis, Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus.


FLASH POINTS


• So much for our theory last week about how a bevy of new R&B and hip-hop releases might budge Josh Groban's "Noel" out of the top spot on The Billboard 200 this week. None of last week's new releases make much of a dent on the chart and "Noel" stays firmly put at No. 1, shifting 669,000 (up 15%). Having sold 2.77 million, it has now passed the "High School Musical 2" soundtrack (2.70 million) to become 2007's top selling album according to Nielsen SoundScan.

• But, with two weeks left in the year, can Groban hold off "HSM2?" Historically, as Christmas Day gets closer, holiday albums tend to drop off in sales. Will Groban's "Noel" buck the trend? He certainly has a lot of TV appearances lined up in order to help keep "Noel's" sales healthy. On Dec. 20 he'll perform on "Rachael Ray" and then on Dec. 24 he'll appear on a repeat of the favorite things edition of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" as well as "Larry King Live" and "Good Morning America." Then, on Dec. 25, he'll sing on ABC's "Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade."

• "Noel" is the first Christmas album to spend four straight weeks at No. 1. It beats Elvis Presley's "Elvis' Christmas Album," which spent three straight weeks atop the chart. Presley's set spent four weeks at No. 1 in total -- just not consecutively. "Noel" and "Elvis" are the only two Christmas albums to spend at least four weeks at No. 1 on The Billboard 200.

• So, what about last Tuesday's new releases? Where did they end up on The Billboard 200? Bow Wow and Omarion's collaborations album "Face Off" debuts at No. 11 on The Billboard 200 with 107,000. Last December, Bow Wow's "The Price of Fame" started at No. 6 with 262,000 while one week later, Omarion's "21" bowed atop the chart with 119,000 ... Birdman sees his "5 * Stunna" album start at No. 18 with 86,000. His last set, "Like Father, Like Son" (with Lil Wayne) started at No. 3 in November 2006 with 176,000 ... R&B singer Mario takes his "Go" set to No. 21 on The Billboard 200 in its first week, shifting 77,000. It's the singer's third album -- and first since 2004's "Turning Point." His debut set "Mario" began at No. 9 in 2002 with 91,000 while "Turning Point" bowed at No. 13 with 161,000.

• Wu-Tang Clan's reunion results in a No. 25 bow on The Billboard 200 with "8 Diagrams," selling 68,000. The rap collective's last studio album, 2001's "Iron Flag," bowed at No. 32 with 153,000. To date, that set has sold 463,000 ... Terius Nash (aka the Dream) sees his solo debut album "Love/Hate" begin at No. 30 on The Billboard 200 with 59,000. The Grammy-nominated Nash is one of the songwriters behind Rihanna's No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 single "Umbrella" and No. 5 Hot 100 hit J. Holiday's "Bed." He also co-wrote recent hit Mary J. Blige's "Just Fine" and Bow Wow and Omarion's current single "Girlfriend" ... Rapper Beanie Sigel starts at No. 37 on The Billboard 200 with "The Solution" (49,000). His last studio album, 2005's "The B. Coming," climbed in at No. 3 with 131,000 ... Another rapper, Gucci Mane, lands at No. 57 with his major label debut "Back to the Trap House." The Atlantic set moved 32,000.




The Billboard 200

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
*1 1 JOSH GROBAN Noel (143 / Reprise / Warner Bros.) *11 New BOW WOW & OMARION Face Off (T.U.G. / Columbia / Sony Music)
*2 2 ALICIA KEYS As I Am (MBK / J / RMG) *12 13 CHRIS BROWN Exclusive (Jive / Zomba)
*3 3 EAGLES Long Road Out Of Eden (ERC ) *13 14 RASCAL FLATTS Still Feels Good (Lyric Street / Hollywood)
*4 4 VARIOUS ARTISTS NOW 26 (EMI / Sony BMG Strategic Marketing Group / Universal / Zomba / Capitol) *14 16 LED ZEPPELIN Mothership (Swan Song / Atlantic)
*5 11 MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER Christmas Song (American Gramaphone ) 15 12 CELINE DION Taking Chances (Columbia / Sony Music)
*6 6 SOUNDTRACK High School Musical 2 (Walt Disney ) *16 15 JONAS BROTHERS Jonas Brothers (Hollywood )
*7 5 MILEY CYRUS Hannah Montana 2 (Soundtrack)/Meet Miley Cyrus (Walt Disney / Hollywood ) *17 18 COLBIE CAILLAT Coco (Universal Republic / UMRG)
*8 9 TAYLOR SWIFT Taylor Swift (Big Machine ) *18 New BIRDMAN 5*Stunna (Cash Money / Universal Motown / UMRG)
*9 7 CARRIE UNDERWOOD Carnival Ride (Arista / Arista Nashville / RMG/SBN) *19 23 ANDREA BOCELLI The Best Of Andrea Bocelli: Vivere (Sugar / Decca / Universal Classics Group)
*10 8 GARTH BROOKS The Ultimate Hits (Pearl ) *20 19 SUGARLAND Enjoy The Ride (Mercury Nashville / UMGN)
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week




MARKET WATCH

• Album units, current chart week: 17.98 million units
• UP 24.4% from last issue's charts: 14.45 million units
• DOWN 23.1% from same week, 2006: 23.39 million units
• This week: The top 12 albums sell more than 100,000 copies.
• This week last year on The Billboard 200: Young Jeezy's "The Inspiration" bowed atop the chart with 352,000. Taylor Hicks' self-titled effort started at No. 2 with 298,000. One other album started in the top 10 -- Mary J. Blige's hits set "Reflections: A Retrospective" (No. 9 with 171,000). The top 26 albums each sold more than 100,000.





BORDERLINES

• The No. 50 album this week, Josh Turner's "Everything is Fine" (MCA Nashville), sold 37,000.
• The No. 50 album for the same week of 2006, the Killers' "Sam's Town" (Island), sold 50,000.
• Average total of the No. 50 album for the same week of the year during the past 10 years (1998-2007): 61,637.



PROGRESS REPORTS



• For the first time in the 19-year history of the Alternative/Modern Rock radio chart, two artists log a pair of simultaneous top 10 singles. Foo Fighters earn its 15th career top 10 as "Long Road to Ruin" climbs from No. 11 to No. 8, joining "The Pretender" which holds at No. 1 for an 18th straight week. Meanwhile, Linkin Park holds at No. 4 with "Shadow of the Day" while "Bleed It Out" sits at No. 10.

• Brad Paisley claims his 17th top 10 on the Hot Country Songs chart with "Letter to Me," which hops three slots to No. 10. Paisley first cracked that part of the chart when "He Didn't Have to Be" hit No. 10 on the chart dated October 1999. That title became the first of his nine No. 1s. "Letter" could give him an even 10 chart-toppers and extend his No. 1 streak to six consecutive non-holiday singles ... Farther down the chart at No. 50, Garth Brooks brings Huey Lewis back to our singles charts for the first time in six years, as the pair duets on "Workin' for a Livin,'" Lewis' 1982 Billboard Hot 100 hit. Lewis' last singles chart appearance was the No. 23-peaking Adult Contemporary hit "Let Her Go And Start Over" in 2001. Although this is his first chart ink on Hot Country Songs, Lewis is no stranger to country fans and artists. He played Reba McEntire's husband in the videoclip for her 1992 chart-topper, "Is There Life Out There."

• Two teen stars stake claim on the CHR/Top 40 and Hot Country Songs charts with a total of eight songs, though interestingly none of the tunes appear on both lists. Taylor Swift places five titles on the Country Songs tally -- "Our Song" at No. 1 for a second week and four seasonal songs -- and flies to No. 11 on the CHR/Top 40 tally with "Teardrops on My Guitar," her former No. 2 Hot Country Songs hit ... Miley Cyrus meanwhile advances to No. 13 on the Country chart with "Ready, Set, Don't Go" with dad Billy Ray and scores her first CHR/Top 40 chart entry at No. 36 with "See You Again." Cyrus appears on the pop chart directly above fellow Disney stars Ashley Tisdale and Jonas Brothers.



Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
*1 1 ALICIA KEYS As I Am (MBK / J / RMG)
*2 New BOW WOW & OMARION Face Off (T.U.G. / Columbia / Sony Music)
*3 New BIRDMAN 5*Stunna (Cash Money / Universal Motown / UMRG)
*4 New MARIO Go (3rd Street / J / RMG)
*5 New THE-DREAM Love/Hate (Radio Killa / Def Jam / IDJMG)
*6 4 CHRIS BROWN Exclusive (Jive / Zomba)
*7 New BEANIE SIGEL The Solution (Roc-A-Fella / Def Jam / IDJMG)
*8 6 KEYSHIA COLE Just Like You (Confidential / Imani / Geffen / IGA)
*9 New WU-TANG CLAN 8 Diagrams (SRC / Loud / Wu / Universal Motown / UMRG)
10 5 JAY-Z American Gangster (Roc-A-Fella / Def Jam / IDJMG)
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week
Top Country Albums

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
*1 1 EAGLES Long Road Out Of Eden (ERC )
*2 4 TAYLOR SWIFT Taylor Swift (Big Machine )
*3 2 CARRIE UNDERWOOD Carnival Ride (Arista / Arista Nashville / RMG/SBN)
*4 3 GARTH BROOKS The Ultimate Hits (Pearl )
*5 5 RASCAL FLATTS Still Feels Good (Lyric Street / Hollywood)
*6 6 SUGARLAND Enjoy The Ride (Mercury / UMGN)
*7 10 ROBERT PLANT / ALISON KRAUSS Raising Sand (Rounder )
*8 7 REBA MCENTIRE Reba Duets (MCA Nashville / UMGN)
*9 9 KEITH URBAN Greatest Hits (Capitol Nashville )
*10 11 GEORGE STRAIT 22 More Hits (MCA Nashville / UMGN)
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week
Top Pop Catalog Albums

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
*1 1 TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA The Lost Christmas Eve (Lava / AG)
*2 3 MICHAEL BUBLE Let It Snow! (EP) (143 / Reprise / Warner Bros.)
*3 4 CELTIC WOMAN A Christmas Celebration (Manhattan / BLG)
4 2 VARIOUS ARTISTS NOW That's What I Call Christmas! 3 (EMI / Universal / Zomba / Sony BMG Strategic Marketing Group / Sony Music)
*5 5 TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA Christmas Eve And Other Stories (Lava / AG)
6 6 VINCE GUARALDI TRIO A Charlie Brown Christmas (Soundtrack) (Fantasy / Concord)
7 9 TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA The Christmas Attic (Lava / AG)
8 11 THE CHIPMUNKS Christmas With The Chipmunks (Capitol )
9 7 FRANK SINATRA, DEAN MARTIN & SAMMY DAVIS JR Christmas With The Rat Pack (Capitol )
10 8 POINT OF GRACE Winter Wonderland (Word-Curb / Warner Bros.)
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week





A LOOK AHEAD

• Among the titles released this week, due on next week's charts: Mary J. Blige's "Growing Pains," Lupe Fiasco's "The Cool," Jaheim's "The Makings of a Man," the soundtrack to the film "Sweeney Todd," Rivers Cuomo's "Alone" and Kirk Franklin's "The Fight of My Life."

• Next week's Billboard 200 competes with the same week in 2006 when: Nas' "Hip Hop Is Dead" started at No. 1 with 355,000. Bow Wow's "The Price of Fame" began at No. 6 with 262,000. The next highest debut came from RBD's "Rebels" at No. 40 with 94,000. The top 36 albums each sold more than 100,000.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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