Country trio Rascal Flatts strikes with its third straight No. 1 album on The Billboard 200 as "Still Feels Good" bows with a whopping 547,000 ... That's the biggest sales week for a country act since over a year ago when, you guessed it, Rascal Flatts' "Me and My Gang" started bigger ... Aside from Rascal Flatts' debut this week, another 10 albums start in the top 20 of The Billboard 200, including eye-popping bows from Joni Mitchell, Queen Latifah and Chaka Khan, an impressive start for Keyshia Cole and the latest top 10 efforts from Foo Fighters and Jill Scott ... Britney Spears' "Gimme More" makes a splash on the Hot Digital Songs chart, bowing at No. 1 with 179,000 downloads sold last week. The heavy sales push a huge gain for the single on The Billboard Hot 100. But how big of a gain?



FLASH POINTS



• Rascal Flatts grabs its third straight No. 1 album on The Billboard 200 as "Still Feels Good" bows with 547,000. That's the largest sales week for a country act since, well, the last time the group put out an album. Its April 2006 effort, "Me and My Gang," bowed with 722,000. With Rascal Flatts bumping fellow country artistReba McEntire out of the top slot, it's the first time The Billboard 200 has had back-to-back No. 1s from country acts since October 2004. That's when George Strait's "50 Number Ones" replaced Rascal Flatts' "Feels Like Today" in the pole position.

• On the Top Country Albums chart, "Still Feels Good" zooms from No. 75 to No. 1 after early sales forced the album to make an early bow last week. It's the first time an album has rose to No. 1 the week after a forced entry due to street-date violation sales since Dixie Chicks' "Taking the Long Way" started a week early at No. 69 before zooming to No. 1 on the chart dated June 10, 2006 ... On Top Country Albums, "Still Feels Good" is the band's fourth consecutive No. 1, stretching back to 2002's "Melt."

• Rascal Flatts' new album is one of 11 debuts in The Billboard 200's top 20 this week. Keyshia Cole's sophomore set, "Just Like You," arrives in the runner-up slot on The Billboard 200, shifting 281,000. It also starts at No. 1 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, surpassing the No. 2 peak of her 2005 debut, "The Way It Is." Coming in at No. 3 on The Billboard 200 is Foo Fighters' seventh charting album, "Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace." It starts with 168,000. The band's last studio set, 2005's "In Your Honor," is Foo Fighters' highest-charting set (No. 2 upon its debut), and it also earned the act its best sales week (311,000; again during its debut week). Jill Scott's latest, "The Real Thing: Words and Sounds Vol. 3," bows at No. 4 with 148,000. On the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, its her fifth top 10 out of five tries. Last week's Billboard 200 champ, Reba McEntire's "Reba Duets," slides to No. 6 with 130,000 (a decline of 57%).


• R&B group Jagged Edge claims its fifth top 10 album on The Billboard 200 as "Baby Makin' Project" bows at No. 8 with 78,000. While 2000's "J.E. Heartbreak" was its first top 10 set, its 1998 album "A Jagged Era" was its first charting release, peaking at No. 104 that year ... Singer/actress Queen Latifah nabs her highest-charting album as "Trav'lin Light" debuts at No. 11 with 51,000. It surpasses the No. 16 debut/peak of her last set, 2004's "The Dana Owens Album," which started with 61,000. Rocker Melissa Etheridge, who has been charting albums for the past 19 years, notches her 10th top 40 set on The Billboard 200 as "Awakening" debuts at No. 13 with 48,000. Etheridge's self-titled debut bowed on The Billboard 200 in June 1988 at No. 179.


• Thanks to a helping hand from Starbucks and her new label Hear Music, Joni Mitchell's "Shine" debuts at No. 14 on The Billboard 200. The set, her first album of new songs since 1998, sold 40,000 last week. It is Mitchell's highest-charting record since "Hejira" reached No. 13 in 1977. R&B legend Chaka Khan debuts at No. 15 on The Billboard 200 with "Funk This," scoring her highest-charting album since 1984's "I Feel For You" hit No. 14. With 39,000 sold last week, "Funk This" also gives Khan her best sales week since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking data in 1991.


• Exactly a year ago this week, Tony Bennett debuted at No. 3 with his "Duets: An American Classic," selling 202,000 in its first week. Fast-forward to this week's chart and we find Bennett debuting with a new compilation album, "Tony Bennett Sings the Ultimate American Songbook, Vol. 1," which begins at No. 16 with 36,000. The collection of previously released material from throughout his career gives the 14-time Grammy Award winner his 38th charting album on The Billboard 200 ... Other Billboard 200 debuts this week include Gorilla Zoe's "Welcome to the Zoo" (No. 18 with 35,000), Dethklok's "Dethalbum" (No. 21; 34,000), David Crowder Band's "Remedy" (No. 22; 32,000), Iron and Wine's "Shepherd's Dog" (No. 24; 32,000), Down's "Down III: Over the Under" (No. 26; 29,000), Chris Botti's "Italia" (No. 27; 29,000), will.i.am's "Songs About Girls" (No. 38; 21,000) and Cheetah Girls' "TCG" (No. 44; 19,000).


• Britney Spears' "Gimme More" debuts at No. 1 on the Hot Digital Songs chart, having sold 179,000 downloads in the seven-day tracking period that ended Sunday (Sept. 30). The single soars 68-3 on The Billboard Hot 100. "More" is her fifth Hot 100 top 10 and her best showing on the chart since her smash debut "...Baby One More Time" hit No. 1 for two weeks in January 1999. Her last top 10 was "Toxic" which peaked at No. 9 in March 2004.



The Billboard 200

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
*1 New RASCAL FLATTS Still Feels Good (Lyric Street / Hollywood) *11 New QUEEN LATIFAH Trav'lin' Light (Flavor Unit / Verve / VG)
*2 New KEYSHIA COLE Just Like You (Confidential / Imani / Geffen / IGA) 12 7 JAMES BLUNT All The Lost Souls (Custard / Atlantic / AG)
*3 New FOO FIGHTERS Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (Roswell / RCA / RMG) *13 New MELISSA ETHERIDGE The Awakening (Island / IDJMG)
*4 New JILL SCOTT The Real Thing: Words And Sounds Vol. 3 (Hidden Beach ) *14 New JONI MITCHELL Shine (Hear )
5 2 KANYE WEST Graduation (Roc-A-Fella / Def Jam / IDJMG) *15 New CHAKA KHAN Funk This (Burgundy / Sony BMG)
6 1 REBA MCENTIRE Reba Duets (MCA Nashville / UMGN) *16 New TONY BENNETT Tony Bennett Sings The Ultimate American Songbook Vol. 1 (RPM / Legacy / Columbia / Sony BMG)
7 6 SOUNDTRACK High School Musical 2 (Walt Disney ) 17 4 BARRY MANILOW The Greatest Songs Of The Seventies (Arista / RMG)
*8 New JAGGED EDGE Baby Makin' Project (So So Def / Island Urban / IDJMG) *18 New GORILLA ZOE Welcome To The Zoo (Block / Bad Boy South / Bad Boy / AG)
9 3 50 CENT Curtis (Shady / Aftermath / Interscope / IGA) 19 13 MILEY CYRUS Hannah Montana 2 (Soundtrack)/Meet Miley Cyrus (Walt Disney / Hollywood )
10 5 KENNY CHESNEY Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates (BNA / SBN) 20 15 NICKELBACK All The Right Reasons (Roadrunner )
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week





MARKET WATCH

• Album units, current chart week: 9.05 million units
• UP 9.2% from last issue's charts: 8.29 million units
• DOWN 8.5% from same week, 2006: 9.90 million units
• This week: the top six albums sell more than 100,000 copies.
• This week last year on The Billboard 200: Ludacris' "Release Therapy" entered at No. 1 with 309,000. The rapper was one of four debuts in the top four, with Janet Jackson, Tony Bennett and Alan Jackson coming in at Nos. 2-4, respectively. The top five albums sold more than 100,000 units.



BORDERLINES

• The No. 10 album this week, Kenny Chesney's "Just Who I Am: Poets and Pirates" (BNA), sold 68,000.
• The No. 10 album for the same week of 2006, "Weird" Al Yankovic's "Straight Outta Lynwood" (Way Moby/Volcano/Zomba), sold 73,000.
• Average total of the No. 10 album for the same week of the year during the past 10 years (1998-2007): 84,562.



PROGRESS REPORTS



• Brad Paisley grabs his ninth No. 1 on Hot Country Songs as "Online" moves into the pole position this week. It's his fifth chart-topper in a row, discounting the five Christmas songs he charted with late last year. His streak dates back to "When I Get Where I'm Going" (featuring Dolly Parton) in spring 2006. He's since topped the tally with "The World," "She's Everything" and "Ticks." His latest No. 1 arrives in the top slot in only 15 weeks, the singer's shortest trip to the top since his first No. 1, 1999's "He Didn't Have to Be," also took 15 weeks.

• This week, Plain White T's' "Hey There Delilah" becomes the first single in more than 10 years to reach the top five on the AC/Adult Contemporary chart and the Alternative/Modern Rock chart. "Delilah" moves from No. 8 to No. 4 on the AC/Adult Contemporary list, while it peaked at No. 3 on the Alternative/Modern Rock tally back in June. The last time a single managed the same feat was when Goo Goo Dolls' "Name" first topped the Alternative/Modern Rock chart in fall 1995 and then crossed over to a No. 5 peak on the AC/Adult Contemporary chart in February 1996. Since the Alternative/Modern Rock chart began in 1988, only three other songs in addition to "Name" and "Delilah" have hit the top five on both lists: Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U" in 1990 (No. 1 Alternative, No. 2 AC), Sheryl Crow's "All I Wanna Do" in 1994 (No. 4 Alternative, No. 1 AC) and Gin Blossoms' "Til I Hear It From You" in 1995-1996 (No. 5 on both lists).

• Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry" tops the AC/Adult Contemporary radio chart with a 2-1 advance in its 14th chart week. For the notoriously slow-moving AC chart, that's a fast rise. It marks the quickest ascent to No. 1 for a non-holiday song by a female since Faith Hill's "Cry" reached No. 1 in its ninth week in late 2002. "Girls" remains atop the Hot AC/Adult Top 40 chart for a sixth week and becomes the first simultaneous Adult Contemporary and Hot AC/Adult Top 40 chart-topper by a female since Sheryl Crow's "The First Cut Is the Deepest" led AC for two weeks and Hot AC for one in 2004. Speaking of Hill, her new single "Lost" debuts at No. 25 on the AC chart, becoming her 10th AC hit. It's one of two new songs on her compilation "The Hits." The other new tune, "Red Umbrella," becomes her 34th top 40 hit on the Hot Country Songs chart with a 45-40 jump.



Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
*1 New KEYSHIA COLE Just Like You (Confidential / Imani / Geffen / IGA)
*2 New JILL SCOTT The Real Thing: Words And Sounds Vol. 3 (Hidden Beach )
*3 New JAGGED EDGE Baby Makin' Project (So So Def / Island Urban / IDJMG)
4 1 KANYE WEST Graduation (Roc-A-Fella / Def Jam / IDJMG)
*5 New CHAKA KHAN Funk This (Burgundy / Sony BMG)
*6 New QUEEN LATIFAH Trav'lin' Light (Flavor Unit / Verve / VG)
7 2 50 CENT Curtis (Shady / Aftermath / Interscope / IGA)
*8 New GORILLA ZOE Welcome To The Zoo (Block / Bad Boy South / Bad Boy / AG)
*9 New GUCCI MANE Trap-A-Thon (Big Cat / Tommy Boy)
*10 New DIPLOMATS PRESENTS: HELL RELL For The Hell Of It (Diplomatic Man / Koch)
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week






A LOOK AHEAD

• Among the titles released this week, due on next week's charts: Faith Hill's "The Hits," Bruce Springsteen's "Magic," Matchbox Twenty's "Exile on Mainstream," Brooks & Dunn's "Cowboy Town," Annie Lennox's "Songs of Mass Destruction," John Fogerty's "Revival," Dashboard Confessional's "The Shade of Poison Trees," J. Holiday's "Back of My Lac," Soulja Boy Tell'em's "Souljaboytellem.com," Bob Dylan's "Dylan" and the "WOW Hits 2008" various-artists collection.
• Next week's Billboard 200 competes with the same week in 2006 when: Evanescence's "The Open Door" started at No. 1 with 447,000 while the Killers' "Sam's Town" bowed at No. 2 with 315,000. George Strait debuted at No. 3 with "It Just Comes Natural" shifting 232,000. The top six albums sold more than 100,000 units.