Bon Jovi scores its fifth No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 as "What About Now" debuts with 101,000 sold in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It's the act's third straight studio album to debut at No. 1, following "The Circle"(2009) and "Lost Highway" (2007). It previously claimed No. 1s with "New Jersey" (1988) and "Slippery When Wet"  (1986).

The veteran band beats the also-debuting David Bowie, who arrives at a career-high No. 2 with "The Next Day," selling 85,000. The rock legend's new album--his first studio set since 2003--earns his largest sales week for an album since SoundScan started tracking data in 1991. Bowie's previous best SoundScan-era sales frame came when 2002's "Heathen" started with 55,000 at No. 14.

"The Next Day" is Bowie's seventh top 10 album. He last logged a top 10 way back in 1983 with the No. 4-peaking "Let's Dance." Until this week, Bowie's highest-charting album had been 1976's "Station to Station," which spent two weeks at No. 3.

A week ago, Billboard reported that industry sources were forecasting that Bon Jovi and Bowie were headed for Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. Initially there was a slim chance that Bowie was going to capture his first No. 1, based in part on his album's strong digital sales. Ultimately, Bon Jovi pulled ahead as the week progressed, while Bowie's sales slowed. Bon Jovi's album profited from weekend CD purchases at big-box stores like Walmart and Target.

In terms of downloads, Bowie's album was the stronger seller: It moved 41,000 digital copies and was the top-selling digital album last week. Forty-eight percent of Bowie's overall first-week sales were downloads. As for Bon Jovi's album, it moved 39,000 downloads--39% of its debut. Bowie was also big with physical sales on the Internet, as "The Next Day"  starts at No. 1 on the Internet Albums chart with 13,000. Sources suggest that figure was driven by pre-orders placed well in advance of the album's release. Because of the banked pre-orders (both physical and digital) generating an unusually high debut week (for Bowie, at least), it's expected that the album will take a large tumble on next week's chart.

But, back to Bon Jovi. While the band claims its fifth No. 1, it does so with its smallest debut sales week for a studio set since 1995. "What About Now"'s opening sum is the band's lowest start since 1995's "These Days" entered with 73,000 at No. 9.

The act's two previous studio releases--"The Circle" and "Lost Highway"--both entered at No. 1 with 163,000 and 292,000, respectively.

 

Debut Bonanza: The Billboard 200 hosts six debuts in its top 10 this week, the most arrivals in the region in four months. The last time there were more in a week was on Dec. 1, 2012, when seven albums arrived in the region. That week, One Direction's "Take Me Home" led the debut pack, starting at No. 1. Last week's No. 1, Luke Bryan's "Spring Break."

"Here to Party," falls to No. 3 with 61,000 (down 59%). At No. 4 is the debuting "Passion: Let the Future Begin" live album with 48,000 sold. Culled from the 2013 Passion Conference in January at Atlanta's Georgia Dome, a significant chunk of the Christian album's sales were driven by pre-orders placed at the conference. The annual Passion event attracted 60,000 attendees this year and featured Passion worship leaders (and recording stars) Chris Tomlin, Kristian Stanfill and Matt Redman, among others. Those acts, and others, appear on the new "Passion" set.

 

20/20 = 750/800? Justin Timberlake will wake up the Billboard 200 next week, barring any unusual circumstances, as his new album "The 20/20 Experience"  is set to bow atop the list with a huge sales start. Sources suggest that the album should easily move around 750,000 copies. It could even sell 800,000 if all things go especially well during the week.

With "20/20" on course for a 750,000 start, it will easily notch Timberlake's best sales week ever, bypassing "FutureSex/LoveSounds"' debut of 684,000 (according to Nielsen SoundScan). ITunes is reportedly leading the way in terms of sales of "20/20," with Target blowing through its stock as well. The latter was the only retailer with an exclusive version of the album. (It includes two bonus songs.)

If "20/20" moves 750,000 or more, it will mark the largest sales week for an album by a male artist since 2010, when Lil Wayne's "Tha Carter IV" shifted 964,000 when it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 dated Sept. 17.