As Josh Groban's "Noel" album spends its third consecutive week at No. 1 on The Billboard 200, he matches the previous record-holder for most straight weeks at No. 1 with a Christmas album -- Elvis Presley ... Will Groban be able to fend off challenges next week from Wu-Tang Clan's reunion album and Bow Wow and Omarion's collaboration effort? Stay tuned ... This year's "American Idol" runner-up, Blake Lewis, sees his "Audio Day Dream" debut at No. 10. First-place finisher Jordin Sparks' self-titled bow also began at No. 10 two weeks ago ... Other debuts on The Billboard 200 this week include sets from Scarface, Drama, Wyclef Jean, Godsmack and Ghostface Killah ... In Progress Reports, Grammy Award nominees Foo Fighters celebrate a historic achievement on the Alternative/Modern Rock radio chart, Taylor Swift nabs her first No. 1 on Hot Country Songs, and Groban sings his way to No. 1 on the AC/Adult Contemporary chart.

FLASH POINTS


• Josh Groban's "Noel" holds at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 for a third straight week, shifting 581,000 with an 8% gain. "Noel" now owns the longest consecutive run at No. 1 for a Christmas album since Elvis Presley's "Elvis' Christmas Album" also spent three weeks in a row at No. 1 in December 1957. After three weeks atop the chart, Elvis' set moved aside, letting Bing Crosby's "Merry Christmas" spend a week at No. 1. Elvis returned to No. 1 for a fourth and final week on the chart dated Jan. 13, 1958 ... Can Groban make it four for four? Yesterday's new releases included a long-awaited new studio set from Wu-Tang Clan as well as a collaboration album from Bow Wow and Omarion. If neither Wu-Tang or the latter two can knock Groban from the top, could Mary J. Blige's "Growing Pains" (out Dec. 18) dethrone "Noel"?

• After only nine weeks in release, Groban's "Noel" is the year's third-best-selling album, having shifted 2.1 million copies. It trails the "High School Musical 2" soundtrack (2.5 million) and Daughtry's "Daughtry" (2.3 million). The "Hannah Montana 2" soundtrack is in fourth place (1.97 million) while Eagles' "Long Road out of Eden" is fifth (1.96 million). The Eagles set has moved that figure in only six weeks.

• With only three sales weeks left in the year, it's looking like Groban's "Noel" has a shot at finishing 2007 as the biggest-selling album of the year. After all, the album has zipped through 1.5 million copies in the past three weeks ... To compare, the top-selling album of 2006 was the "High School Musical" soundtrack with 3.7 million. "Noel" would need to move about 1.6 million in the next three weeks to beat that figure.

• Currently, no albums have crossed the 3 million mark in 2007. At this point last year (through the week ending Dec. 10, 2006), two albums had sold 3 million or more -- the first "High School Musical" album and Rascal Flatts' "Me and My Gang." By the end of 2006, Carrie Underwood's "Some Hearts" had also joined the 3 million club.

• But let's get back to the action on this week's Billboard 200 ... The latest "American Idol" runner-up, Blake Lewis, sees his "Audio Day Dream" debut at No. 10 with 98,000. Two weeks ago, 2007 winner Jordin Sparks started at No. 10 with 119,000 ... Earlier this year, the 2006 second-place finisher, Katharine McPhee, saw her self-titled debut enter at No. 2 with 116,000. In December of last year, 2006's champ, Taylor Hicks, climbed in at No. 2 with his self-titled debut, moving 298,000 ... Lewis' opening sales week and chart debut is lower than that of three other runner-ups' debuts (Clay Aiken, Bo Bice and McPhee) but larger than two others (Justin Guarini and Diana DeGarmo).

• Other debuts on The Billboard 200 this week include Scarface's "M.A.D.E." at No. 17 with 63,000 and Trace Adkins' "American Man" hits collection at No. 22 with 53,000. Drama's "Gangsta Grillz" lands at No. 26 with 49,000 while Wyclef Jean's "Carnival II" starts at No. 28 with 46,000. Godsmack's first hits package starts at No. 35 with 40,000 while Ghostface Killah's "Big Doe Rehab" climbs in at No. 41 with 36,000.



The Billboard 200

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
*1 1 JOSH GROBAN Noel (143 / Reprise / Warner Bros.) *11 10 MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER Christmas Song (American Gramaphone )
2 3 ALICIA KEYS As I Am (MBK / J / RMG) 12 8 CELINE DION Taking Chances (Columbia / Sony Music)
3 2 EAGLES Long Road Out Of Eden (ERC ) *13 11 CHRIS BROWN Exclusive (Jive / Zomba)
*4 4 VARIOUS ARTISTS NOW 26 (EMI / Sony BMG Strategic Marketing Group / Universal / Zomba / Capitol) *14 14 RASCAL FLATTS Still Feels Good (Lyric Street / Hollywood)
*5 7 MILEY CYRUS Hannah Montana 2 (Soundtrack)/Meet Miley Cyrus (Walt Disney / Hollywood ) *15 15 JONAS BROTHERS Jonas Brothers (Hollywood )
*6 6 SOUNDTRACK High School Musical 2 (Walt Disney ) 16 13 LED ZEPPELIN Mothership (Swan Song / Atlantic)
*7 9 CARRIE UNDERWOOD Carnival Ride (Arista / Arista Nashville / RMG/SBN) *17 New SCARFACE Made (Rap-A-Lot 4 Life / Rap-A-Lot / Asylum)
8 5 GARTH BROOKS The Ultimate Hits (Pearl ) *18 16 COLBIE CAILLAT Coco (Universal Republic / UMRG)
*9 12 TAYLOR SWIFT Taylor Swift (Big Machine ) *19 20 SUGARLAND Enjoy The Ride (Mercury Nashville / UMGN)
*10 New BLAKE LEWIS Audio Daydream (19 / Arista / RMG) *20 22 SOUNDTRACK Hannah Montana (Walt Disney )
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week




MARKET WATCH

• Album units, current chart week: 14.45 million units
• UP 17.9% from last issue's charts: 12.26 million units
• DOWN 23.3% from same week, 2006: 18.86 million units
• This week: The top eight albums sell more than 100,000 copies.
• This week last year on The Billboard 200: the top three slots of The Billboard 200 all welcomed new entries. Ciara's "The Evolution" came in on top with 338,000 while the Eminem mix-tape "The Re-Up" started at No. 2 with 309,000. Gwen Stefani's "The Sweet Escape" rounded out the trio at No. 3 with 243,000. The top 15 albums each sold more than 100,000.





BORDERLINES

• The No. 1 album this week, Josh Groban's "Noel" (143/Reprise), sold 581,000.
• The No. 1 album for the same week of 2006, Ciara's "The Evolution" (LaFace), sold 338,000.
• Average total of the No. 200 album for the same week of the year during the past 10 years (1998-2007): 465,540.



PROGRESS REPORTS



• With 17 weeks at No. 1 on the Alternative/Modern Rock chart, Foo Fighters' "The Pretender" sets the record for the most weeks at No. 1 in the history of the chart. The song, which was just nominated for three Grammy Awards last week -- including record of the year -- spent the first of its 17 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the chart dated Sept. 1, 2007 ... Foo Fighters first graced the Alternative/Modern Rock chart July 8, 1995, when "This Is a Call" debuted at No. 12. It was the first of the band's 21 charting singles. The most recent is "Long Road to Ruin," which rises to No. 11 this week. "Ruin" and "Pretender" are lifted from the band's "Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace" album, which garnered two Grammy nominations last week, including one for album of the year.

• Speaking of Grammys, Taylor Swift, who nabbed a best new artist nomination, scores her first No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart as "Our Song" leaps from No. 6 to No. 1. That's the biggest jump to No. 1 since Tim McGraw's "Just to See You Smile" also made the 6-1 leap on the chart dated Jan. 17, 1998 ... In addition, Swift makes a big move on the CHR/Top 40 airplay chart with "Teardrops on My Guitar," as it ascends to No. 16 (up from No. 23 last week). The song is a former No. 2 hit on the Hot Country Songs chart ... It's only the second single to chart on Hot Country Songs and in the top 20 of the CHR/Top 40 chart in 2007. Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats" peaked at No. 1 on Hot Country Songs Nov. 11, 2006, and at No. 9 on the CHR/Top 40 chart May 19, 2007.

• On the AC/Adult Contemporary chart, the man of the hour, Josh Groban, rises to No. 1 with "I'll Be Home for Christmas." It's the singer's fifth chart-topper on the tally, and his first since the 2004 single "Believe" spent five weeks at No. 1 in December 2004 and January 2005 ... "Christmas" is one of four singles that Groban is charting on the AC/Adult Contemporary list this week. He also debuts at No. 23 with "The First Noel" (with Faith Hill), No. 24 with "Little Drummer Boy" (with Andy McKee) and at No. 29 with "Silent Night." The last time one act charted four singles at one time on the AC list was back on the chart dated Jan. 7, 2006, when MercyMe found itself at Nos. 6, 25, 33 and 34 with a gaggle of holiday tunes ... Groban may feel even more AC cheer in the near future. A number of other songs from his "Noel" album are bubbling under the chart and could debut in the coming weeks.




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 SCARFACE Made (Rap-A-Lot 4 Life / Rap-A-Lot / Asylum)
*3 New DRAMA Gangsta Grillz: The Album (Grand Hustle / Atlantic / AG)
*4 3 CHRIS BROWN Exclusive (Jive / Zomba)
5 2 JAY-Z American Gangster (Roc-A-Fella / Def Jam / IDJMG)
6 4 KEYSHIA COLE Just Like You (Confidential / Imani / Geffen / IGA)
*7 New STYLES P Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman) (Phantom / D-Block / Koch)
*8 New GHOSTFACE The Big Doe Rehab (Def Jam / IDJMG)
*9 New WYCLEF JEAN Carnival Vol. II: Memories Of An Immigrant (In Ya Face / Columbia / Sony Music)
*10 5 VARIOUS ARTISTS NOW 26 (EMI / Sony BMG Strategic Marketing Group / Universal / Zomba / Capitol)
* 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 3 CARRIE UNDERWOOD Carnival Ride (Arista / Arista Nashville / RMG/SBN)
3 2 GARTH BROOKS The Ultimate Hits (Pearl )
*4 4 TAYLOR SWIFT Taylor Swift (Big Machine )
*5 5 RASCAL FLATTS Still Feels Good (Lyric Street / Hollywood)
*6 7 SUGARLAND Enjoy The Ride (Mercury / UMGN)
*7 8 REBA MCENTIRE Reba Duets (MCA Nashville / UMGN)
*8 New TRACE ADKINS American Man: Greatest Hits Volume II (Capitol Nashville )
9 6 KEITH URBAN Greatest Hits (Capitol Nashville )
*10 10 ROBERT PLANT / ALISON KRAUSS Raising Sand (Rounder )
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week
Top Heatseekers

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
*1 3 INGRID MICHAELSON Girls And Boys (Cabin 24 / Original Signal)
*2 5 LEVON HELM Dirt Farmer (Dirt Farmer / Vanguard)
3 1 SLIDAWG AND THE REDNECK RAMBLERS A Blue Collar Christmas (IMI / Madacy Special Products / Madacy)
4 2 SLIDAWG AND THE REDNECK RAMBLERS A Redneck Christmas (IMI / Madacy Special Products / Madacy)
*5 7 SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS 100 Days, 100 Nights (Daptone )
6 4 NICK SWARDSON Party (Comedy Central )
*7 New YURIDIA Entre Mariposas (Sony BMG Norte )
*8 8 DRAGONFORCE Inhuman Rampage (Sanctuary / Roadrunner)
*9 36 CHANTICLEER Let It Snow (Warner Classics & Jazz / Rhino)
10 11 MINDY SMITH My Holiday (Vanguard / Welk)
* 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 2 VARIOUS ARTISTS NOW That's What I Call Christmas! 3 (EMI / Universal / Zomba / Sony BMG Strategic Marketing Group / Sony Music)
*3 4 MICHAEL BUBLE Let It Snow! (EP) (143 / Reprise / Warner Bros.)
4 3 CELTIC WOMAN A Christmas Celebration (Manhattan / BLG)
*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 7 FRANK SINATRA, DEAN MARTIN & SAMMY DAVIS JR Christmas With The Rat Pack (Capitol )
8 9 POINT OF GRACE Winter Wonderland (Word-Curb / Warner Bros.)
*9 14 TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA The Christmas Attic (Lava / AG)
10 8 IL DIVO The Christmas Collection (SYCO / Columbia / Sony Music)
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week





A LOOK AHEAD

• Among the titles released this week, due on next week's charts: Wu-Tang Clan's "8 Diagrams," Dave Matthews' Band's "Live at Piedmont Park," Bow Wow and Omarion's "Face Off," Beanie Sigel's "The Solution," the Dream's "Love Hate" and Gucci Mane's "Back to the Traphouse."

• Next week's Billboard 200 competes with the same week in 2006 when: 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.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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