Rapper sells 700K in abbreviated first week.
Although it was legitimately available for just three days during the sales reporting week, Eminem's "Encore" moved enough copies to easily debut at No. 1 on The Billboard 200. Released on Friday in an effort to combat widespread piracy, the Shady/Aftermath/Interscope set sold 711,000 copies in the United States through Sunday, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Street-date violations also contributed to the album's sales.
The two-week story of "Encore" will likely rival that of 2002's "The Eminem Show." That set also managed a No. 1 debut on the strength of 285,000 copies sold in an off-cycle release week, then followed with 1.3 million in its first full week of sales, the fifth-biggest sales week in the SoundScan era. The set has sold 9.3 million to date.
Behind Eminem, country acts are enjoying a strong showing on The Billboard 200, following the Nov. 9 broadcast of the Country Music Assn. Awards.
Shania Twain, who performed during the CBS broadcast, enters the chart at No. 2 on sales of 530,000 copies of her first "Greatest Hits" set (Mercury Nashville). Her last studio album, 2002's "Up!," opened at No. 1 with 874,000 and has sold 5.2 million to date.
Fellow CMA performer Toby Keith grabs the No. 3 spot after selling 435,000 units of his "Greatest Hits 2" (DreamWorks Nashville/Interscope). The country star's first hits volume, which spanned his Mercury Nashville career, opened at No. 61 with 24,000 units in 1998.
CMA emerging-artist winner and performer Gretchen Wilson -- who was also named breakthrough artist of the year at Sunday's American Music Awards -- sees her Epic debut "Here for the Party" jump 17-13 on a 74% increase to 77,000 copies.
Other performers who saw a sales spike this week include Tim McGraw, whose "Live Like You Were Dying" (Curb) falls 16-18 despite a 31% jump to 66,000 units, and Rascal Flatts, whose "Feels Like Today" (Hollywood) drops one to No. 27 even though sales jumped 60% to 49,000.
Back in the top 10, Britney Spears' "Greatest Hits: My Prerogative" (Jive) is the first album of the pop singer's career not to bow at the summit of The Billboard 200. The career-spanning collection debuts at No. 4 on sales of 255,000. Last year's studio album "In the Zone" opened on top with 609,000 and has sold 2.9 million to date.
East Coast rapper Fabolous enters at No. 6 with "Real Talk" (Desert Storm/Atlantic). With 179,000 copies, the title came up slightly short of last year's "Street Dreams," which bowed at No. 3 with 185,000; it has sold 1.3 million to date.
Ja Rule wraps up this week's top-10 debuts with "R.U.L.E." (The Inc./Def Jam/IDJMG), at No. 7. Powered by the Billboard Hot 100 hit "Wonderful" featuring R. Kelly and Ashanti, the set sold 166,000 copies.
New Edition, minus original member Bobby Brown, enters at No. 12 with "One Love." The R&B supergroup's Bad Boy Records debut and first studio set in eight years opened with sales of 86,000 copies. The 1996 MCA release "Home Again," which included Brown and his replacement, Johnny Gill, entered at No. 1 with 227,000 copies and to date has sold 1.8 million.
Also debuting in the top 20 this week are Andrea Bocelli's "Andrea" (Sugar/Phillips/Universal Classics Group, No. 16) and Elton John's "Peachtree Road" (Rocket/Universal, No. 17).
Although officially released on Monday, Destiny's Child's "Destiny Fulfilled" bows at No. 19 due to street-date violations. The Sony Urban Music/Columbia set is the R&B trio's first album since 2001's "Survivor." Violations also cause Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz' "Crunk Juice" (TVT) to prematurely debut at No. 31; the album was not expected in stores until yesterday (Nov. 16).
Additional debuts this week include the Bee Gees' "Number Ones" (Universal), at No. 23, and Vanessa Carlton's sophomore A&M album, "Harmonium," at No. 33.
At 13.8 million units, overall U.S. album sales were up about 27% over the previous week, but were down about 7.8% from the same week last year. Sales for the year continue to beat those of 2003 by about 3.5%.