Rucker's start is larger than initially forecast, as insiders had pegged "True Believers" to launch with around 60,000 to 65,000. Comparably, his last studio effort, 2010's "Charleston, SC 1966," also bowed at No. 2 -- but with 101,000 (his best sales week so far).
While he's yet to claim at No. 1 as a solo act on the Billboard 200 (he's collected two as part of Hootie & the Blowfish), his new album marks his third straight No. 1 on the Top Country Albums chart -- his entire output of country material. Previous to his career in country music, he issued one solo R&B set, 2002's "Back to Then."
At No. 3 on the Billboard 200 this week is rock band the National, starting with a career-high 75,000 for its sixth studio album, "Trouble Will Find Me." Its No. 3 entry ties the band's 2010 effort "High Violet" for its highest-charting set yet. "High Violet" debuted and peaked with 51,000 on the tally dated May 29, 2010.
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Rapper French Montana is the fourth new set in the top four, as his debut album "Excuse My French" starts with 56,000 at No. 4. It also lands atop both Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and Rap Albums.
The soundtrack to "The Great Gatsby" slips 4-5 with 54,000 (down 43%), bringing its to-date total to 286,000 after three weeks.
In the No. 6 slot is Thirty Seconds to Mars' "Love Lust Faith + Dreams," starting with 53,000. It's the band's first top 10 album and second-largest sales week. Their previous chart high came with their last studio album, 2009's "This Is War," which debuted and peaked at No. 19 with 69,000. That sales sum continues to be the band's biggest week.
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As for the rest of the top 10 albums, last week's No. 1, Vampire Weekend's "Modern Vampires of the City," falls to No. 7 with 48,000 (down 64%), while George Strait's "Love Is Everything" slips 2-8 in its second week with 43,000 (down 65%). Timberlake's "The 20/20 Experience" descends 7-9 with 42,000 (down 4%) while Lady Antebellum's "Golden" moves 5-10 with 34,000 (down 39%).
Over on the Digital Songs chart, the top selling tune of the week remains "Can't Hold Us" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Ray Dalton, with another 212,000 downloads sold (down 8%).
Jumping up two slots is Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise" (4-2), with 197,000 (up 4%). Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" (featuring T.I. and Pharrell) slips 2-3 with 191,000 (down 8%), while P!nk's "Just Give Me a Reason" (featuring Nate Ruess) dips 3-4 with 184,000 (down 5%).
Climbing 10-5 with 180,000 is Daft Punk's "Get Lucky," featuring Pharrell Williams, up by 53%. The song profits from release-week buzz of its parent album, "Random Access Memories," which debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.
Selena Gomez's "Come and Get It" is pushed back 5-6, despite a gain this week. It moved 171,000 downloads -- up 4%.
The chart's highest debut comes in at No. 7, by the late Zach Sobiech. The singer/songwriter -- who passed away on Monday, May 20 from cancer -- enters with "Clouds," selling 156,000 downloads (up 8,149%). The song has been on sale since December 2012, and had sold 25,000 up through the Sunday night before he died.
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Sobiech was also part of the trio A Firm Handshake, which sees its album "Fix Me Up" fly onto the Billboard 200 at No. 20 with 19,000 sold (up 7,500%). The set features "Clouds," and was released in February.
Closing out the top 10 on Digital Songs: Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive" falls 7-8 (148,000; though it's up 4%), Timberlake's "Mirrors" descends 6-9 (142,000; down 9%) and Icona Pop's "I Love It" (featuring Charli XCX) is pushed back 8-10 with 134,000 (despite a gain of 4%).
Overall album sales in this past chart week (ending May 26) totaled 5.19 million units, up 2% compared with the sum last week (5.11 million) and down 2% compared with the comparable sales week of 2012 (5.29 million). Year to date album sales stand at 116.60 million, down 5% compared to the same total at this point last year (122.69 million).
Digital track sales this past week totaled 24.49 million downloads, up less than 1% compared with last week (24.43 million) and down 6% stacked next to the comparable week of 2012 (25.98 million). Year to date track sales are at 555.67 million, down 3% compared to the same total at this point last year (571.28 million).
Next week's Billboard 200 competes with the same week in 2012 when: John Mayer's "Born and Raised" held at No. 1 for a second week, selling 65,000 (down 70%), while Regina Spektor's "What We Saw From the Cheap Seats" earned the chart's highest debut, starting at No. 3 with 42,000.