Linkin Park earns the year's best sales week as its "Minutes to Midnight" bows at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 with 623,000. The set sold a whopping 84,000 digital downloads -- the biggest week ever for a digital album ... The album is one of five to debut in the top 10 of The Billboard 200 this week, joining new efforts from Tank, Wilco, Gretchen Wilson and Megadeth ... In other news, Rick James posthumously returns to the charts, the latest singles from Tim McGraw and Faith Hill are on the rise, Smashing Pumpkins reappear on the Alternative/Modern Rock chart after a seven-year break and the Tony Award nominations help push a big gain for the cast album of the 11-time nominee "Spring Awakening."




FLASH POINTS



• While one superstar album can't save the industry, it certainly perks up an otherwise blah chart. Linkin Park's "Minutes to Midnight" slams in at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 with 623,000. That's the biggest figure the chart has seen all year and the best since Jay-Z's "Kingdom Come" started with 680,000 on the chart dated Dec. 9, 2006. "Minutes" is the seventh title to move more than 600,000 in a week in the past two years, following debuts from Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake, Rascal Flatts, Mary J. Blige, Kanye West and Coldplay. "Minutes to Midnight" clicked through 84,000 digital downloads -- the biggest week for a digital album, surpassing the 67,000 that Timberlake's "FutureSex/LoveSounds" moved last year ... Linkin Park's last album, 2003's "Meteora," began at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 with 810,000. The band's current single, "What I've Done," is its sixth consecutive No. 1 on the Alternative/Modern Rock chart, where it spends a seventh straight week at the top. The song sold 65,000 downloads this week -- a 46% gain. That's enough for a top five placing on Hot Digital Songs, where Maroon5 holds at No. 1 with "Makes Me Wonder" (164,000; up 25%). The latter band's "It Won't Be Soon Before Long" is a good bet for the top slot on The Billboard 200 next week. The group's last studio album -- "Songs About Jane" -- never got any higher than No. 6 in its long 109-week run on the chart.

• R&B singer Tank drives onto The Billboard 200 at No. 2 with "Sex, Love & Pain," selling 103,000 units. It's the artist's best week yet. His last album, "One Man," faltered with a No. 20 debut/peak in 2002 (58,000) while his 2001 premier set, "Force of Nature," debuted and peaked at No. 7 (98,000). "Sex, Love & Pain" also bows at No. 1 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums -- his second chart-topper there, following "Force of Nature." Credit the renewed interest in Tank to his hit single "Please Don't Go." It's his biggest hit -- it's top three on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and continues rising on The Billboard Hot 100 ... Elsewhere on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, the late Rick James bows at No. 19 with "Deeper Still." The set immediately becomes his highest-charting album on that list since "Wonderful" hit No. 12 in 1988. Of course, since 1988, he has only charted with two albums -- 1997's "Urban Rapsody" (No. 31) and the new "Deeper Still." James' R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart history dates back to 1978, when "Come Get It!" bowed. It eventually peaked at No. 3 ... In other classic artists news, Howard Hewett's "If Only" lands at No. 81 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums in its first week. It's the singer's sixth solo set to chart on the tally and the first since his 1994 album "It's Time" peaked at No. 29 in 1995. As part of the group Shalamar, Hewett charted another seven albums, including the 1982 No. 1 "Friends."

• Wilco, Gretchen Wilson and Megadeth round out the debuts in the top 10 of The Billboard 200 this week. At No. 4, "Sky Blue Sky" becomes Wilco's second top 10 album and highest-charting effort yet with 87,000. That represents its biggest sales week, surpassing its previous sales high, when 2004's "A Ghost Is Born" bowed at No. 8 with 81,000. The new album moved 20,000 via digital retailers -- 23% of its first-week sales ... Wilson notches her third top five album, as "One of the Boys" lands at No. 5 with 73,000. That's a steep drop in sales compared with the figures that greeted her first two sets. Her 2004 debut, "Here for the Party," bowed at No. 2 with 227,000 while 2005's "All Jacked Up" opened at No. 1 with 264,000. The new album's title track creeps 41-39 on Hot Country Songs, becoming her 11th top 40 hit. On Top Country Albums, "One of the Boys" is Wilson's third straight chart-topper. She is the first woman since LeAnn Rimes to see her first three albums all reach No. 1 on the Country Albums chart. Rimes pulled off the trick with "Blue," "Unchained Melody/The Early Years" and "You Light Up My Life -- Inspirational Songs" in 1996 and 1997 ... Rock band Megadeth scores its first top 10 album since 1994 as "United Abominations" debuts at No. 8 with 54,000. Its last top 10 set was "Youthanasia," which debuted and peaked at No. 4 in 1994. The 54,000 start for "United" is the band's best sales week since "The World Needs a Hero" began with 61,000 at No. 16 in 2001.

• Other big debuts on The Billboard 200 this week include Rufus Wainwright's "Release the Stars" at No. 23 with 24,000. It's his highest-charting album and best sales week. Pink Martini, whose last album ("Hang On Little Tomato") peaked at No. 122 on The Billboard 200, sees its new "Hey Eugene!" bow at No. 30 with 19,000. The jazzy act also starts at No. 2 on Top Jazz Albums, playing runner-up to Michael Buble's "Call Me Irresponsible." The soundtrack to "Shrek the Third" climbs in at No. 44 on The Billboard 200 and No. 2 on Top Soundtracks. The film bowed in theaters May 18 and took in $122 million at the U.S. and Canada box offices. The soundtrack album features Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" as well as Fergie's cover of Heart's "Barracuda."




The Billboard 200

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
*1 New LINKIN PARK Minutes To Midnight (Machine Shop / Warner Bros.) 11 8 CARRIE UNDERWOOD Some Hearts (Arista / Arista Nashville / RMG)
*2 New TANK Sex Love & Pain (Blackground / Universal Motown / UMRG) *12 14 AMY WINEHOUSE Back To Black (Universal Republic / UMRG)
3 1 MICHAEL BUBLE Call Me Irresponsible (143 / Reprise / Warner Bros.) *13 15 TAYLOR SWIFT Taylor Swift (Big Machine )
*4 New WILCO Sky Blue Sky (Nonesuch / Warner Bros.) 14 3 BOBBY VALENTINO Special Occasion (DTP / Def Jam / IDJMG)
*5 New GRETCHEN WILSON One Of The Boys (Columbia (Nashville) / SBN) 15 12 AKON Konvicted (Konvict / Upfront / SRC / Universal Motown / UMRG)
6 5 AVRIL LAVIGNE The Best Damn Thing (RCA / RMG) 16 10 VARIOUS ARTISTS NOW 24 (EMI / Sony BMG / Universal / Zomba / Capitol)
7 4 NE-YO Because Of You (Def Jam / IDJMG) 17 11 TIM MCGRAW Let It Go (Curb )
*8 New MEGADETH United Abominations (Roadrunner ) 18 18 FERGIE The Dutchess (will.i.am / A&M / Interscope)
9 2 BONE THUGS-N-HARMONY Strength & Loyalty (Full Surface / Interscope) *19 22 RASCAL FLATTS Me And My Gang (Lyric Street / Hollywood)
10 6 DAUGHTRY Daughtry (RCA / RMG) *20 67 ELLIOTT YAMIN Elliott Yamin (Hickory )
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week





MARKET WATCH

• Album units, current chart week: 8.59 million units
• UP 1% from last issue's charts: 8.51 million units
• DOWN 7% from same week, 2006: 9.24 million units
• This week: The top two albums sell more than 100,000 copies.
• This week last year on The Billboard 200: Red Hot Chili Peppers held at No. 1 for a second week with "Stadium Arcadium," selling 157,000. Cam'Ron's "Killa Season" bowed at No. 2 with 114,000 while Ashley Parker Angel and the Raconteurs started at Nos. 5 and 7 with 72,000 and 61,000, respectively. The top two albums sold more than 100,000 units.



BORDERLINES

• The No. 50 album this week, Josh Groban's "Awake" (143/Reprise/Warner Bros.), sold 14,000.
• The No. 50 album for the same week of 2006, Phil Vassar's "Greatest Hits Volume 1" (Arista Nashville), sold 19,000.
• Average total of the No. 50 album for the same week of the year during the past 10 years (1998-2007): 21,534.



PROGRESS REPORTS

• Tim McGraw and Faith Hill each arrive on Hot Country Songs with new singles while the couple's new duet keeps rising. McGraw takes the Hot Shot Debut at No. 35 with "If You're Reading This," a song he introduced on the May 15 Academy of Country Music Awards show. With no studio version available, the 50 monitored stations that aired the military-themed song did so by lifting audio from the CBS telecast. Concurrently, Hill's "Lost" benefits from a premiere on the ACM show as it bows at No. 48 with 1.1 million impressions. The couple's "I Need You" also advances 21-17 in its eighth chart week.

• Although it is one week shy of seven years since the Smashing Pumpkins last graced the Alternative/Modern Rock radio chart, the Chicago-based quartet clearly has not been forgotten based on the No. 30 debut of "Tarantula." The lead track from "Zeitgeist," due in stores July 10, bows after only three days of airplay, as it was distributed to radio May 18 (Friday). The Pumpkins' last visited the chart with "Stand Inside Your Love," which peaked at No. 2 in March 2000. Elsewhere on the chart, Nine Inch Nails scores its fifth consecutive top 10 as "Capital G" jumps 12-9. Each of the act's previous four top 10 tracks has reached No. 1.


• Enrique Iglesias returns to the CHR/Top 40 chart for the first time since April 2004, as "Do You Know? (The Ping Pong Song)" debuts at No. 39. Iglesias charted 10 songs at the format from 1999 through 2004, with "Hero" in 2001 climbing the highest (No. 2). "Ping Pong" also holds at No. 1 on Hot Latin Songs for a third week, where it is billed as "Dimelo" ... In totally unrelated news, after a whopping 11 Tony Award nominations last week, the cast recording of "Spring Awakening" is up 47% (No. 4 on Top Cast Albums). Among its nominations were nods for best musical, leading actor in a musical (Jonathan Groff) and best book of a musical (music by Duncan Sheik, lyrics by Steven Sater). At No. 7 on Top Cast Albums, "Hairspray" spritzes up with a 12% gain. The cast of the forthcoming film adaptation of the musical show chatted and sang on an episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" last week.





Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
*1 New TANK Sex Love & Pain (Blackground / Universal Motown / UMRG)
2 3 NE-YO Because Of You (Def Jam / IDJMG)
3 2 BONE THUGS-N-HARMONY Strength & Loyalty (Full Surface / Interscope)
4 1 BOBBY VALENTINO Special Occasion (DTP / Def Jam / IDJMG)
5 4 MUSIQ SOULCHILD Luvanmusiq (Atlantic / AG)
6 7 JOE Ain't Nothing Like Me (Jive / Zomba)
7 6 ROBIN THICKE The Evolution Of Robin Thicke (Star Trak / Interscope)
8 8 AKON Konvicted (Konvict / Upfront / SRC / Universal Motown / UMRG)
*9 12 AMY WINEHOUSE Back To Black (Universal Republic / UMRG)
10 10 LLOYD Street Love (The Inc. / Universal Motown / UMRG)
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week
Top Country Albums

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
*1 New GRETCHEN WILSON One Of The Boys (Columbia / SBN)
2 1 CARRIE UNDERWOOD Some Hearts (Arista / Arista Nashville / RMG)
*3 4 TAYLOR SWIFT Taylor Swift (Big Machine )
4 2 TIM MCGRAW Let It Go (Curb )
5 5 RASCAL FLATTS Me And My Gang (Lyric Street / Hollywood)
6 3 MARTINA MCBRIDE Waking Up Laughing (RCA / SBN)
7 8 MIRANDA LAMBERT Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Columbia / SBN)
8 6 ALISON KRAUSS A Hundred Miles Or More: A Collection (Rounder )
9 7 BLAKE SHELTON Pure BS (Warner Bros. / WRN)
10 10 SUGARLAND Enjoy The Ride (Mercury / UMGN)
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week
Top Pop Catalog Albums

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
1 1 MICHAEL BUBLE It's Time (143 / Reprise / Warner Bros.)
*2 15 LINKIN PARK [Hybrid Theory] (Warner Bros. )
3 3 JOSH GROBAN Closer (143 / Reprise / Warner Bros.)
4 7 GUNS N' ROSES Greatest Hits (Geffen / Interscope)
*5 New MAROON5 Songs About Jane (Octone / J / RMG)
6 8 KELLY CLARKSON Breakaway (RCA / RMG)
7 4 RASCAL FLATTS Feels Like Today (Lyric Street / Hollywood)
8 2 BON JOVI Cross Road (Mercury / UMe)
9 5 MICHAEL BUBLE Michael Buble (143 / Reprise / Warner Bros.)
10 9 ORIGINAL BROADWAY CAST RECORDING Wicked (Decca Broadway / Universal Classics Group)
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week




A LOOK AHEAD

• Among the titles released this week, due on next week's charts: Maroon5's "It Won't Be Soon Before Long," Ozzy Osbourne's "Black Rain," the Used's "Lies for the Liars," Tim Armstrong's "A Poet's Life," the Bravery's "The Sun and the Moon" and U.S.D.A.'s "Cold Summer - The Authorized Mixtape."
• Next week's Billboard 200 competes with the same week in 2006 when: Dixie Chicks bowed atop the chart with "Taking the Long Way," selling 526,000. The "American Idol Season 5: Encores" set bowed at No. 3 with 154,000 while Angels & Airwaves' debut started at No. 4 with 127,000. The top five albums each sold more than 100,000 units.