R&B/hip-hop quartet Pretty Ricky scores its first No. 1 album on The Billboard 200 and breaks the sub-100,000 spell that gripped the top of the chart for the past three weeks ... The Shins charge in at No. 2 on the big chart with 30% of its first-week sales coming from digital retailers ... The new "2007 Grammy Nominees" album starts at No. 4 ... John Mellencamp has his best debut ever, as his new "Freedom's Road" jumps in at No. 5 ... Robin Thicke and Regina Spektor can thank TV for their big jumps this week -- both hit new chart highs.




FLASH POINTS



• Pretty Ricky opens at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums with its second album, "Late Night Special." The Atlantic set sold 132,000 in its first week, breaking the sub-100,000 doldrums the chart endured for the past three weeks ... The 132,000 debut for "Late Night" easily beats the 56,000 opener that greeted the quartet's 2005 debut, "Bluestars." The latter set debuted and peaked at No. 16 on The Billboard 200 ... The new album was ushered in by the lead single "On the Hotline," which rises 12-8 on the Rhythmic Top 40 radio chart and 9-6 on the Urban radio tally. The videoclip for the tune is a fixture on BET's "106 & Park" show. Naturally, the group stopped by "106 & Park" Jan. 22 to perform and also had hosting duties for various BET shows Jan. 27. The popularity of "On the Hotline" extends to the ringtone world as well. Last week the cut was No. 5 on our Hot MasterTones chart, selling more than 61,000 ... Pretty Ricky's chart-topping bow gives the Atlantic Group its fifth No. 1 in a year, joining Juvenile's "Reality Check," T.I.'s "King," Danity Kane's self-titled album and Diddy's "Press Play."


• For a band that never got higher than No. 86 with its last album, a No. 2 debut must feel extraordinary. The Shins' "Wincing the Night Away" starts in the runner-up slot on The Billboard 200 with 118,000 units. It's not just the best ranking for the band, but also the highest-charting album ever for Sub Pop Records. Previously, the venerable indie label got as high as No. 79 with the Afghan Whigs' "Black Love" in 1996. Naturally, the Shins' album also debuts at No. 1 on Top Independent Albums. It additionally checks in at No. 1 on Top Digital Albums and No. 1 on Top Tastemakers. In fact, 30% of the album's first-week sales came from digital retailers ... The act, which reached a broader audience thanks to its inclusion on the "Garden State" soundtrack, is rising up the Alternative/Modern Rock radio chart with "Phantom Limb." The single moves 21-18 in its eighth week on the list. On the Triple A chart, it climbs 15-13 ... The group played "Saturday Night Live" Jan. 13 and "Late Show With David Letterman" Jan. 23. It also did an in-store performance at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square in New York (Jan. 22) and played KCRW Los Angeles' influential "Morning Becomes Eclectic" program Jan. 26. That night, the band zipped over to Amoeba Records for a performance as well.


• The new "2007 Grammy Nominees" album bows at No. 4 with 77,000 units. It surpasses the No. 14 debut and peak of last year's edition in the series. All of the regular "Grammy Nominees" albums (not including the sister Latin and rap compilations) have reached the top 30, while six of them have made the top 10. The "2006 Grammy Nominees" album began with 43,000 at No. 14 but saw its best sales two weeks later, in the wake of the Grammy Awards telecast. After the show, it vaulted 32-15 and sold 59,000. Backing out the assorted Latin and rap spinoff releases, the traditional series has sold 6.1 million copies in the United States since its debut in 1995.


• John Mellencamp celebrates his highest-debuting album ever, as "Freedom's Road" opens at No. 5 on The Billboard 200. The set -- his first top 10 album in 10 years -- moved 56,000 in its first week. That's more than what his last studio set, 2003's "Trouble No More," started with (No. 31; 32,000), but it's less than what 2001's "Cuttin' Heads" (No. 15; 73,000) sold ... "Freedom's Road" is Mellencamp's 18th album to reach The Billboard 200, dating back to 1979's "John Cougar." It's his eighth top 10 album and only his third set to start in the top 10 ... Last week, Mellencamp played two nights on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (Jan. 24-25). Meanwhile, the album's single (and Chevy jingle) "Our Country" sits at No. 41 on Hot Country Songs and moves 18-17 on the AC/Adult Contemporary chart ... "Freedom's Road" was available last week for less than $10 at Target, Best Buy, Circuit City and Kmart. Best Buy's edition came with four extra acoustic tracks, Circuit City's version only got one bonus cut and Wal-Mart's set included a DVD. At the Apple iTunes Music Store, the set came bundled with two bonus tracks and a music video.


• Other debuts on The Billboard 200 this week include ... Saliva's "Blood Stained Love Story" (No. 19; 31,000); The Good, the Band & the Queen's self-titled set (No. 49; 15,000); Ernie Haase & Signature Sound's "Get Away, Jordan" (No. 59; 12,000); Of Montreal's "Hissing Fauna Are You the Destroyer?" (No. 72; 11,000); "UltraDance08," presented by the Riddler and Trevor Simpson (No. 82; 10,000); Sunshine Anderson's "Sunshine at Midnight" (No. 86; 10,000); and Atreyu's "The Best Of" (No. 103; 8,000). The late Valentin Elizalde's "Vencedor" reaches The Billboard 200 for the first time since the set was reissued last week with a bonus DVD. The album climbs on at No. 70 (11,000; up 229%).



The Billboard 200

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
*1 New PRETTY RICKY Late Night Special (BlueStar / Atlantic / AG) 11 4 CORINNE BAILEY RAE Corinne Bailey Rae (Capitol )
*2 New THE SHINS Wincing The Night Away (Sub Pop ) *12 8 NICKELBACK All The Right Reasons (Roadrunner / IDJMG)
*3 1 DAUGHTRY Daughtry (RCA / RMG) 13 10 BEYONCE B'Day (Columbia / Sony Music)
*4 New VARIOUS ARTISTS 2007 Grammy Nominees (Grammy ) 14 9 CARRIE UNDERWOOD Some Hearts (Arista / Arista Nashville / RMG)
*5 New JOHN MELLENCAMP Freedom's Road (Universal Republic / UMe) 15 12 NELLY FURTADO Loose (Mosley / Geffen / Interscope)
6 2 SOUNDTRACK Dreamgirls (Music World / Columbia / Sony Music) 16 7 VARIOUS ARTISTS NOW 23 (Sony BMG Strategic Marketing Group / EMI / Universal / Zomba / Sony Music)
7 5 AKON Konvicted (Konvict / Upfront / SRC / Universal Motown / UMRG) 17 13 RASCAL FLATTS Me And My Gang (Lyric Street / Hollywood)
*8 16 ROBIN THICKE The Evolution Of Robin Thicke (Star Trak / Interscope) 18 14 YOUNG JEEZY The Inspiration (Corporate Thugz / Def Jam / IDJMG)
9 3 SOUNDTRACK Jump In! (Walt Disney ) *19 New SALIVA Blood Stained Love Story (Island / IDJMG)
10 6 JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE FutureSex/LoveSounds (Jive / Zomba) *20 34 REGINA SPEKTOR Begin To Hope (Sire / Warner Bros.)
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week





MARKET WATCH

• Album units, current chart week: 8.50 million units
• UP 5.1% from last issue's charts: 8.09 million units
• DOWN 14.4% from same week, 2006: 9.93 million units
• This week: The top two albums sell more than 100,000 copies.
• This week last year on The Billboard 200: Il Divo's "Ancora" shook up the sleepy chart with its No. 1 debut (156,000). Josh Turner started at No. 2 with "Your Man" (102,000) while three more albums also started in the top 10. Yellowcard bowed at No. 5 (90,000), the "Now #1's" compilation debuted at No. 6 (90,000) and P.O.D.'s "Testify" climbed in at No. 9 (58,000). The top two albums sold more than 100,000 units.



BORDERLINES

• The No. 100 album this week, the soundtrack to "Cars" (Walt Disney), sold 8,000.
• The No. 100 album for the same week of 2006, Weezer's "Make Believe" (Geffen), sold 9,000.
• Average total of the No. 100 album for the same week of the year during the past 10 years (1998-2007): 11,236.



PROGRESS REPORTS

• The All-American Rejects hit the CHR/Top 40 radio chart's top 10 with a third track from its album "Move Along," as "It Ends Tonight" steps 11-10. The quartet becomes just the third rock band this decade to send three songs from an album into the top 10. Maroon5 hit with its first three releases from "Songs About Jane" in 2003-04, and Nickelback completed the hat trick last October with "Far Away" from "All the Right Reasons" ... Meanwhile, four titles debut near the bottom of the CHR/Top 40 chart this week -- Ciara's "Promise" (No. 36), Augustana's "Boston" (No. 38), Omarion's "Ice Box" (No. 39) and Lloyd's "You" (featuring Lil' Wayne).


• Robin Thicke's "The Evolution of Robin Thicke" zooms 16-8 on The Billboard 200 with the largest unit increase on the chart. It's up 53% and grows by 16,000 units. (Total sales last week were 45,000.) The album benefits from extra attention on MTV and MTV2's "Sucker Free" and "Discover & Download" programming ... Regina Spektor's "Begin to Hope" grows 34-20 with the biggest percentage gain on The Billboard 200 (up 48%). She was featured on CBS' "Sunday Morning" Jan. 21 ... Thicke and Spektor hit new chart peaks and sales highs this week.


• Craig Morgan lands his fourth top 10 on the Hot Country Songs chart with "Little Bit of Life," which gains 972,000 in audience impressions (11-9). Morgan's top 10 history commenced with "Almost Home" in July 2003. He then topped the chart for four weeks in 2005 with "That's What I Love About Sunday" and was most recently in the top 10 when "Redneck Yacht Club" peaked at No. 2 in October 2005. Concurrently, Tracy Lawrence posts his highest position in more than two years as "Find Out Who Your Friends Are" jumps 36-32. Lawrence hasn't risen this high since "Paint Me a Birmingham" peaked at No. 4 in 2004.





Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
*1 New PRETTY RICKY Late Night Special (BlueStar / Atlantic / AG)
*2 2 ROBIN THICKE The Evolution Of Robin Thicke (Star Trak / Interscope)
3 1 SOUNDTRACK Dreamgirls (Music World / Columbia / Sony Music)
*4 4 YOUNG JEEZY The Inspiration (Corporate Thugz / Def Jam / IDJMG)
5 3 AKON Konvicted (Konvict / Upfront / SRC / Universal Motown / UMRG)
6 8 OMARION 21 (T.U.G. / Epic / Columbia / Sony Music)
7 7 CIARA Ciara: The Evolution (LaFace / Zomba)
8 9 BEYONCE B'Day (Columbia / Sony Music)
9 6 MARY J. BLIGE Reflections (A Retrospective) (Matriarch / Geffen / Interscope)
10 11 JAY-Z Kingdom Come (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 CARRIE UNDERWOOD Some Hearts (Arista / Arista Nashville / RMG)
2 2 RASCAL FLATTS Me And My Gang (Lyric Street / Hollywood)
*3 4 RODNEY ATKINS If You're Going Through Hell (Curb )
4 3 KEITH URBAN Love, Pain & The Whole Crazy Thing (Capitol Nashville )
5 6 TAYLOR SWIFT Taylor Swift (Big Machine )
6 5 BRAD PAISLEY Time Well Wasted (Arista Nashville / SBN)
7 7 SUGARLAND Enjoy The Ride (Mercury / UMGN)
8 9 JOSH TURNER Your Man (MCA Nashville / UMGN)
9 8 KELLIE PICKLER Small Town Girl (BNA / SBN)
10 10 SOUNDTRACK Broken Bridges (Show Dog Nashville )
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week
Top Heatseekers

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
*1 New DUSTIN KENSRUE Please Come Home (Equal Vision )
*2 New DEERHOOF Friend Opportunity (Kill Rock Stars )
3 3 SILVERSUN PICKUPS Carnavas (dangerbird )
*4 9 UNK Beat'n Down Yo Block (Big Oomp / Koch)
*5 New MOE. Conch (Fatboy )
6 6 BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE The Poison (Trustkill )
7 4 RODRIGO Y GABRIELA Rodrigo Y Gabriela (ATO )
*8 New BEVERLEY MITCHELL Beverley Mitchell (Daystar )
*9 New MENOMENA Friend and Foe (Barsuk )
10 11 IMOGEN HEAP Speak For Yourself (RCA Victor )
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week
Top Pop Catalog Albums

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
*1 3 BOB SEGER & THE SILVER BULLET BAND Greatest Hits (Capitol )
*2 1 GUNS N' ROSES Greatest Hits (Geffen / Interscope)
3 2 RASCAL FLATTS Feels Like Today (Lyric Street / Hollywood)
*4 8 CREED Greatest Hits (Wind-up )
*5 10 NORAH JONES Come Away With Me (Blue Note / BLG)
6 6 PINK FLOYD Dark Side Of The Moon (Capitol )
*7 9 THE DOORS Best Of The Doors (Elektra / Asylum / Elektra)
8 5 TOBYMAC Momentum (ForeFront )
*9 17 TIM MCGRAW Greatest Hits (Curb )
10 7 JOURNEY Journey's Greatest Hits (Legacy / 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: Norah Jones' "Not Too Late," Katharine McPhee's "Katharine McPhee," Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's "Some Loud Thunder," Celtic Woman's "A New Journey," Harry Connick Jr.'s "Oh, My Nola," Lily Allen's "Alright, Still," Jill Scott's "Collaborations" and Madonna's "The Confessions Tour" CD/DVD.
• Next week's Billboard 200 competes with the same week in 2006 when: Barry Manilow's "Greatest Songs of the Fifties" flew in at No. 1 with 156,000. Andrea Bocelli, Heather Headley and Train also debuted in the top 10 at Nos. 3, 5 and 10, respectively. The top three albums sold more than 100,000 units.