Young Jeezy debuts at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 with "The Inspiration," easily beating the peak of his 2005 effort ... "American Idol" winner Taylor Hicks proves the power of his soul patrol with his self-titled debut at No. 2 ... Mary J. Blige's first-greatest hits album, "Reflections (A Retrospective)," debuts in the top 10 while Fantasia and Tyrese see their latest albums start in the top 25 ... In other news, we've got updates on Johnny Mathis, Taking Back Sunday, Carrie Underwood, Michael Buble, Josh Groban, Tony Bennett and Daryl Hall & John Oates.




FLASH POINTS

• Young Jeezy easily bests the debut of his last album, as his new set, "The Inspiration," opens at No. 1 with 352,000 -- his best sales week ever. Just last year, his "Let's Get It: Thug Motivation" debuted and peaked at No. 2 with 172,000. The new album's single, "I Luv It," has already hit the top 30 on The Billboard Hot 100 and the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts ... On the day of the album's release, the rapper appeared on MTV's "TRL" and "Suckerfree" and BET's "Rap City," and performed on BET's "106 & Park" ... He also made three in-store appearances during release week, visiting Circuit City in Union Square in New York (Dec. 12); Best Buy in Smyrna, Ga. (Dec. 13); and DTRL in Washington, D.C. (Dec. 16) ... The album was sale-priced for less then $10 at Target, Best Buy, Circuit City, Kmart and Wal-Mart, while Best Buy's edition included two bonus tracks. At Target, the album came bundled with an exclusive DVD while the Apple iTunes Music Store's edition carried the bonus track "National Anthem."


• The latest "American Idol" winner, Taylor Hicks, bows at No. 2 with his self-titled set. The release sold 298,000 in its first week. To compare, the previous season's "Idol" winner, Carrie Underwood, did 315,000 when she started at No. 2 in November 2005 with "Some Hearts." Here is the rundown of all of the "Idol" winners' debut sets' first weeks: Fantasia's "Free Yourself": No. 8; 240,000, Ruben Studdard's "Soulful": No. 1; 417,000 and Kelly Clarkson's "Thankful": No. 1; 297,000. Other notable "Idol" alums' debut albums include Clay Aiken's "Measure of a Man" (No. 1; 613,000) and more recently, Chris Daughtry's band's self-titled debut, "Daughtry" (No. 2; 304,000) ... To tout his album, Hicks appeared on "The View," "The Early Show" and "Live With Regis and Kelly." Of course, Hicks' album was also on sale for less than $10 at the usual locales, Target included.


• It's a big week for "American Idol" winners, as Fantasia returns with her second album, simply titled "Fantasia." It starts at No. 19 on The Billboard 200 with 133,000 units and enters at No. 3 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. Her current single, "Hood Boy," is doing decent at R&B radio stations -- it hit the top 30 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart last week. But, keep in mind that when "Free Yourself" bowed, that album's single, "Truth Is," was just getting started. It eventually went on to spend four weeks at No. 2 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart -- one of five top 40 hits from the album. While Fantasia hasn't crossed over to top 40 radio yet (she hasn't managed a CHR/Top 40 chart hit), she has a solid fan base via Urban/R&B/Hip-Hop radio, so "Fantasia" may have legs. ("Free Yourself" has sold 1.7 million copies to date.)


• Just about a year after the debut of her "Breakthrough" album, Mary J. Blige returns with her first greatest-hits package, "Reflections (A Retrospective)." The set enters The Billboard 200 at No. 9 (171,000) and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums at No. 2 ... It boasts four new songs, including the single "We Ride (I See the Future)." The tune is just getting started on the charts, as it only debuted two weeks ago on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs tally. The U.S. edition of "Reflections" clocks in at a short 65 minutes and is notably missing some of the diva's significant chart hits. They include the top 10 R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay singles "You Remind Me," "Reminisce," "Sweet Thing," "Love No Limit," "Love Is All We Need," "Everything," "I Can Love You," "Seven Days," "All That I Can Say," "Deep Inside" and "Rainy Dayz."


• As it gets closer to Christmas, fewer albums hit store shelves, thus the serious lack of debuts on the big chart this week. However, there are a few more titles that make their entrance outside the top 20, including Tyrese's "Alter Ego" at No. 23 with 116,000 units. The double album also appears on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums at No. 4 and on Top Rap Albums at No. 2. One disc is dedicated to R&B, the other to rap ... Ghostface Killah's "More Fish" starts at No. 71 on The Billboard 200 with 36,000 ... Following appearances on PBS and CBS' "Sunday Morning," Johnny Mathis sees two albums hit The Billboard 200. At No. 171, "The 50th Anniversary Celebration" jumps on with 12,000 while at No. 191 we get "A 50th Anniversary Christmas Celebration" (10,000).



The Billboard 200

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
*1 New YOUNG JEEZY The Inspiration (Corporate Thugz / Def Jam / IDJMG) 11 1 CIARA Ciara: The Evolution (LaFace / Zomba)
*2 New TAYLOR HICKS Taylor Hicks (Arista / RMG) *12 18 TONY BENNETT Duets: An American Classic (RPM / Columbia / Sony Music)
*3 4 SOUNDTRACK Hannah Montana (Walt Disney ) 13 2 VARIOUS ARTISTS Eminem Presents: The Re-Up (Shady / Interscope)
*4 5 VARIOUS ARTISTS NOW 23 (Sony BMG Strategic Marketing Group / EMI / Universal / Zomba / Sony Music) 14 3 GWEN STEFANI The Sweet Escape (Interscope )
*5 11 JOSH GROBAN Awake (143 / Reprise / Warner Bros.) *15 17 RASCAL FLATTS Me And My Gang (Lyric Street / Hollywood)
*6 10 CARRIE UNDERWOOD Some Hearts (Arista / Arista Nashville / RMG) *16 12 AKON Konvicted (Konvict / Upfront / SRC / Universal Motown / UMRG)
*7 7 DAUGHTRY Daughtry (RCA / RMG) *17 19 FERGIE The Dutchess (will.i.am / A&M / Interscope)
*8 8 THE BEATLES Love (Apple / Capitol) 18 9 SARAH MCLACHLAN Wintersong (Arista / RMG)
*9 New MARY J. BLIGE Reflections (A Retrospective) (Matriarch / Geffen / Interscope) *19 New FANTASIA Fantasia (J / RMG)
10 6 IL DIVO Siempre (SYCO / Columbia / Sony Music) *20 13 BEYONCE B'Day (Columbia / Sony Music)
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week





MARKET WATCH

• Album units, current chart week: 23.39 million units
• UP 24% from last issue's charts: 18.86 million units
• DOWN 5.6% from same week, 2005: 24.77 million units
• This week: The top 26 albums sell more than 100,000 copies.
• This week last year on The Billboard 200: Eminem's "Curtain Call: The Hits" remained at No. 1 with 324,000. Bo Bice's "The Real Thing" opened at No. 4 with 227,000 while the Ludacris-presented "Disturbing Tha Peace" compilation started at No. 11 (151,000). The top 25 albums each sold more than 100,000 units.



BORDERLINES

• The No. 100 album this week, Three Days Grace's "One - X" (Jive/Zomba), sold 24,000.
• The No. 100 album for the same week of 2005, Guns N' Roses' "Greatest Hits" (Geffen/Interscope), sold 28,000.
• Average total of the No. 100 album for the same week of the year during the past 10 years (1997-2006): 32,424.



PROGRESS REPORTS

• It may sound old hat, but there's nothing better than getting a guest spot on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Last week four stars appeared in one episode, where Carrie Underwood, Josh Groban, Tony Bennett and Michael Buble all performed on the Dec. 11 show. Underwood's "Some Hearts" moves 10-6 with a 58% gain, Groban's "Awake" goes 11-5 (up 83%), Bennett's "Duets: An American Classic" motors 18-12 (up 65%) and Buble's "It's Time" flies 136-89 (up 102%). On Top Pop Catalog Albums, Buble's self-titled album jumps 37-18 (up 76%) while on Holiday Albums, his "Let It Snow" EP re-enters at No. 48 (up 160%).

• Neil Diamond's "12 Songs" re-enters The Billboard 200 at No. 98 (24,000) with a 2,090% gain thanks to a reissue of the set. It is now available packaged with a second disc's worth of alternate takes and demo versions of the original album's songs. Diamond played NBC's "Today" (Dec. 11) and "The View" (Dec. 12) to hype the set ... Also on the reissue front, Taking Back Sunday's "Louder Now" was repackaged with a bonus DVD and four additional live audio cuts. It re-enters at No. 174 on The Billboard 200 (up 115%). The DVD has 90-plus minutes of footage, including live performances and music videos. The four bonus tracks on the CD were recorded at the Long Beach Arena in California and includes "MakeDamnSure."

• The 2006 holiday season becomes the first to feature two Christmas-themed titles topping the AC/Adult Contemporary chart, as "It Came upon a Midnight Clear" by Daryl Hall & John Oates rises 3-1 and nudges Kimberley Locke's still-bulleted "Jingle Bells" down to No. 2 after a one-week stay at the top. Of the famed duo's 33 career AC hits (of which 15 have reached the top 10), "Clear" becomes only the second to rise to No. 1. And to find the first, you do not even have to go back further than this decade, as the pair's "Do It for Love" spent two weeks at No. 1 in 2002. The title cut from the tandem's new holiday release, "Home for Christmas," also re-enters the chart at No. 29.





Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
*1 87 YOUNG JEEZY The Inspiration (Corporate Thugz / Def Jam / IDJMG)
*2 New MARY J. BLIGE Reflections (A Retrospective) (Matriarch / Geffen / Interscope)
*3 New FANTASIA Fantasia (J / RMG)
*4 New TYRESE (AKA BLACK-TY) Alter Ego (J / RMG)
5 1 CIARA Ciara: The Evolution (LaFace / Zomba)
6 2 VARIOUS ARTISTS Eminem Presents: The Re-Up (Shady / Interscope)
*7 8 BEYONCE B'Day (Columbia / Sony Music)
8 3 JAY-Z Kingdom Come (Roc-A-Fella / Def Jam / IDJMG)
*9 7 AKON Konvicted (Konvict / Upfront / SRC / Universal Motown / UMRG)
10 9 SNOOP DOGG Tha Blue Carpet Treatment (Doggystyle / Geffen / Interscope)
* 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 3 KEITH URBAN Love, Pain & The Whole Crazy Thing (Capitol Nashville )
*4 4 SUGARLAND Enjoy The Ride (Mercury / UMGN)
*5 5 GEORGE STRAIT It Just Comes Natural (MCA Nashville / UMGN)
*6 6 JOSH TURNER Your Man (MCA Nashville / UMGN)
*7 8 RODNEY ATKINS If You're Going Through Hell (Curb )
*8 7 BRAD PAISLEY Time Well Wasted (Arista Nashville / SBN)
*9 9 KELLIE PICKLER Small Town Girl (BNA / SBN)
*10 11 TIM MCGRAW Greatest Hits Vol 2: Reflected (Curb )
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week
Hot Singles Sales

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
1 1 BEYONCE Irreplaceable (Columbia )
2 4 EAGLES Hole In The World (ERC / 33rd Street)
3 2 JEFF FOXWORTHY/BILL ENGVALL Redneck 12 Days Of Christmas/Here's Your Sign Christmas (Warner Bros. (Nashville) / WRN)
4 3 KATHARINE MCPHEE Somewhere Over The Rainbow/My Destiny (RCA / RMG)
5 5 TAYLOR HICKS Do I Make You Proud/Takin' It To The Streets (Arista / RMG)
6 6 THE SHINS Phantom Limb (Sub Pop )
7 8 ENYA Oiche Chium (Silent Night) (Reprise )
8 9 ELTON JOHN Something About The Way.../Candle In The Wind 1997 (Rocket / Island / IDJMG)
9 7 MADONNA Jump (Warner Bros. )
10 12 BEYONCE FEAT. JAY-Z Deja Vu (Columbia )
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week
Top Heatseekers

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
*1 1 REGINA SPEKTOR Begin To Hope (Sire / Warner Bros.)
3 2 MAT KEARNEY Nothing Left To Lose (Aware / Columbia / Sony Music)
*4 5 BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE The Poison (Trustkill )
*5 6 NEWSONG The Christmas Hope (Integrity / Columbia / Sony Music)
*6 8 SHINY TOY GUNS We Are Pilots (Universal Motown / UMRG)
*7 12 CARTEL Chroma (The Militia Group / Epic / Sony Music)
9 4 ANA GABRIEL La Reina Canta A Mexico (Sony BMG Norte )
10 7 THE 101 STRINGS ORCHESTRA Thomas Kinkade: Treasury Of Christmas (Madacy Special Products / Madacy)
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week
Top Pop Catalog Albums

Sales data provided and compiled from Nielsen SoundScan
1 1 IL DIVO The Christmas Collection (SYCO / Columbia / Sony Music)
*2 2 TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA The Lost Christmas Eve (Lava / AG)
*3 3 VINCE GUARALDI TRIO A Charlie Brown Christmas (Soundtrack) (Fantasy / Concord)
*4 5 TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA Christmas Eve And Other Stories (Lava / AG)
5 4 LARRY THE CABLE GUY A Very Larry Christmas (Jack / Warner Bros. (Nashville) / WRN)
*6 7 TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA The Christmas Attic (Lava / AG)
7 6 FRANK SINATRA, DEAN MARTIN & SAMMY DAVIS JR Christmas With The Rat Pack (Capitol )
8 8 MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER Christmas Celebration (American Gramaphone )
9 9 STEVEN CURTIS CHAPMAN All I Really Want For Christmas (Sparrow )
*10 22 RASCAL FLATTS Feels Like Today (Lyric Street / Hollywood)
* indicates titles with greatest sales gains this week




A LOOK AHEAD

• Among the titles released this week, due on next week's charts: Nas' "Hip Hop Is Dead," Bow Wow's "The Price of Fame," RBD's "Rebels" and Trick Daddy's "Back by Thug Demand."

• Next week's Billboard 200 competes with the same week in 2005 when: the top three slots all went to new albums ... Mary J. Blige's "The Breakthrough" broke in with 727,000 at No. 1 while Jamie Foxx and the Notorious B.I.G. started at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. The top 34 albums each sold more than 100,000 units.