Believe it or not, with the continued domination of "I Dreamed a Dream," Boyle is the first artist in the Billboard 200's 53-year chart history to enter the list at No. 1 with a debut album and spend five consecutive weeks at the summit. In second place are Lauryn Hill (1998) and Ashanti (2002), each with three weeks in charge out of the gate with "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" and "Ashanti," respectively.
Because Boyle continues to dominate the Billboard 200, a superstar diva is forced to sit on the sidelines again this week: Mary J. Blige's "Stronger With Each Tear" debuts at No. 2 with 330,000 copies. Her arrival comes one week after Alicia Keys' "The Element of Freedom" bowed at No. 2 behind Boyle with 417,000.
This is Blige's third studio album in a row to start with more than 300,000 sold. Her last set, "Growing Pains," launched at No. 1 with 629,000 in December of 2007, while "The Breakthrough" debuted at No. 1 with 727,000 in December of 2005. Blige is the ninth woman in SoundScan's 18-year history to see at least three albums all debut with an opening sales week of 300,000 or more. "Stronger" is her 10th top 10 album on the Billboard 200 and her seventh set to reach the top two slots. It fares better on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, where it starts at the summit. Now with nine No. 1s on the latter chart, Blige trails only Aretha Franklin (10 No. 1s) for most No. 1s among women in the R&B/Hip-Hop tally's 44-year history
Blige's "Stronger" is one of just two debuts within the top 40 of the Billboard 200 this week, as the year slowly comes to a close. The lone other entry comes from the "We Are Young Money" collaborations album featuring artists on Lil Wayne's Young Money label. It debuts at No. 9 with 142,000.
Next week's batch of debuts will look especially barren, as no major releases were issued this week. The next big arrival will be Ke$ha's "Animal" on Tuesday, Jan. 5.
The rest of this week's top 10 albums on the Billboard 200 remains full of familiar titles. Andrea Bocelli's "My Christmas" holds at No. 3 with 284,000 (down 27%) while Keys' "Freedom" falls two slots to No. 4 with 280,000 (down 33%). Swift's "Fearless" moves down one rung to No. 5 with 224,000 (down 6%), while Lady Gaga's "The Fame" stays put at No. 6 with 169,000 (up 20%). Justin Bieber's "My World" EP climbs from No. 8 to No. 7 with 157,000 (up 23%) while Carrie Underwood's "Play On" slides three slots to No. 8 with 153,000 (down less than 1%). Closing out the top 10 is Michael Buble's "Crazy Love," down three positions, with 137,000 (down 3%).
Overall album sales in this past chart week (ending Dec. 27) totaled 17.14 million units, up 13% compared to the sum last week (15.14 million) and up 1% compared to the same sales week of 2008 (17.03 million). Year to date album sales stand at 374.6 million, down 13% compared to the same total at this point last year (428.4 million).
(Additional reporting by Gary Trust, Alex Vitoulis and Silvio Pietroluongo)