But one could conclude that "Circus" was a more highly anticipated album, in that it was seen as a comeback after a few years where Spears' personal and professional life was pretty chaotic. "Circus" was ushered in by the No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 single "Womanizer," complete with a return-to-sexy-form music video.
"Femme Fatale," however, isn't a comeback album. There's nothing to come back from; rather, it continues Spears' significant commercial success. She sold 1.7 million copies of "Circus" in the United States, snared three top 20 Hot 100 singles from the set and mounted a blockbuster global tour.
While the first single from "Fatale," "Hold It Against Me," debuted at No. 1 on the Hot 100, it quickly peaked at No. 3 on the Mainstream Top 40 radio airplay chart -- Spears' home turf format on the airwaves. This week, it falls 19-26 in its 12th week on the list. The album's second single, "Till the World Ends," earns a bullet at No. 14 on the list, but stands still in its fourth week. To compare, "Womanizer" had climbed to No. 5 with a bullet when "Circus" debuted on the Billboard 200, and it reached No. 1 two weeks later.
Also worth noting is that "Fatale" is Spears' first album to be released in the spring in more than a decade. While her first set dropped in January 1999 and her second offering, 2000's "Oops! . . . I Did It Again," came out in May 2000, the rest of her catalog (even her hits packages and remix sets) was issued during the always busy shopping period of November-December.
And, not like anyone needs to be reminded, but album sales aren't what they used to be. Even if it's been less than two-and-a-half years since "Circus."
Finally, perhaps Spears' tepidly received "Good Morning America" performance on the street date for "Fatale" (March 29) put a damper on the set's first-week festivities. The social buzz ranged from critiques on her tentative dancing to commentary about her unusually husky voice. She also hit the stage the same night on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" to moderately better notices.
Spears isn't the only big news on the Billboard 200 this week though. Wiz Khalifa arrives at No. 2 with his major-label debut, "Rolling Papers," selling 197,000. He's already topped the Billboard Hot 100 with "Black and Yellow" and bowed in the top 10 last week with "No Sleep."
Adele's "21" holds at No. 3 (94,000; down 2%), Chris Brown's "F.A.M.E." slides 1-4 (91,000; down 66%), and the "Songs for Japan" charity compilation posts an increase in sales after its first full week in release, climbing 6-5 (71,000; up 5%).
The mainstream release of Radiohead's "The King of Limbs" enables the album's bow at No. 6 (69,000) while Jennifer Hudson's "I Remember Me" slips 2-7 (56,000; down 66%). Snoop Dogg's "Doggumentary" arrives at No. 8 (50,000) -- the hip-hop king's 11th top 10 -- while Kirk Franklin's "Hello Fear" slides 5-9 (46,000; down 47%). Closing out the top 10 is gospel duo Mary Mary with "Something Big" starting with 42,000 at No. 10, the third top 10 effort for the act.
Switching gears to the Digital Songs chart, Katy Perry's "E.T." holds at No. 1, selling another 327,000 downloads (up 29%), following the premiere of its out-of-this-world music video last week. The Black Eyed Peas' "Just Can't Get Enough" moves up 3-2 (203,000; down 7%), and Rihanna's "S&M" is also up one, 4-3 (159,000; down 4%).
Jennifer Lopez's "On the Floor" (featuring Pitbull) rises 7-4 (138,000; down 4%), Brown's "Look at Me Now" (featuring Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes) climbs 8-5 (137,000; down 4%), and Khalifa's "No Sleep" slides 2-6 (135,000; down 45%). Cee Lo Green's "F**k You (Forget You)" drops 5-7 (134,000; down 14%), Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" descends 6-8 (129,000; down 12%), and Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" rises 11-9 (122,000; up 16%). Finally, at No. 10 is the fast-rising "John" from Lil Wayne, shifting 116,000 (up 134%).
Overall album sales in this past chart week (ending April 3) totaled 6.6 million units, up 2% compared with the sum last week (6.5 million) and down 3% compared with the comparable sales week of 2010 (6.8 million). It's the first week -- after six straight frames -- where sales are down compared with last year. Year-to-date album sales stand at 77.8 million, down 5% compared with the same total at this point last year (81.9 million).
Digital track sales this past week totaled 24.5 million downloads, down 1% compared with last week (24.8 million) and up 8% stacked next to the comparable week of 2010 (22.7 million). Year-to-date track sales are at 339.1 million, up 9% compared with the same total at this point last year (312.4 million).
Next week's Billboard 200 competes with the same week in 2010 when: Justin Bieber's "My World 2.0" returned to the No. 1 slot with 102,000 (down 65%) and Usher's "Raymond v Raymond" fell from the penthouse to No. 2 (92,000; down 72%). Slash's self-titled album was the top debut, arriving in third place with 60,000.