John Mayer Snares No. 1 On Busy Billboard 200

Albert Watson

John Mayer

John Mayer brings home his second No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart, as "Battle Studies" bows with 286,000 copies sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The singer/songwriter's first chart-topper came with "Heavier Things" in 2003, when it bowed with 317,000. Mayer's last studio set, "Continuum," entered the chart at No. 2 with 300,000 in 2006.

"Battle Studies" posts the third-best sales week for a digital set this year -- 129,000 downloads -- and the best-ever for Columbia Records. Earlier in 2009, U2's "No Line On the Horizon" arrived with 155,000 downloads and Dave Matthews Band's "Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King" launched with 134,000 downloads. "Battle Studies" is only the 12th album to sell at least 100,000 downloads in one week since SoundScan began tracking digital album sales in 2005.

Mayer's "Battle Studies" leads a pre-Thanksgiving parade of new albums onto the list, including debuts from Norah Jones' "The Fall" (No. 3 with 180,000), Casting Crowns' "Until the Whole World Hears" (No. 4; 167,000) and 50 Cent's "Before I Self Destruct" (No. 5 with 160,000).

Jones' fourth studio set, "The Fall," follows three straight No. 1s for the singer. Her last release, "Not Too Late," debuted atop the list with 405,000 in February 2007.

The 167,000 arrival of "Until the Whole World Hears" marks Casting Crowns' best sales week ever. The act's previous high week came when "The Altar and the Door" debuted and peaked at No. 2 with 129,000 copies in September of 2007.

50 Cent's "Before I Self Destruct" is the rapper's fourth top 10 set and follows the 2007 release "Curtis." The latter opened at No. 2 with 691,000 copies, stuck behind Kanye West's No. 1 debut with "Graduation" (957,000).

15-year old Justin Bieber arrives at No. 6 with his economically priced seven-song EP "My World," selling 137,000 copies in its first week. A couple steps down, just outside the top 10, is "American Idol" winner Kris Allen with his self-titled debut, starting at No. 11 with 80,000 copies.

Rock super group Them Crooked Vultures (consisting of Dave Grohl, Josh Homme and John Paul Jones) flies in at No. 12 with its self-titled first offering (70,000), while Leona Lewis' sophomore album "Echo" sings out at No. 13 with 67,000. Her debut set "Spirit" opened at No. 1 with 205,000 copies in April of 2008.

Paul McCartney's live set, "Good Evening New York City," rounds out the debuts in the top 20 as it enters at No. 16 with 55,000. It's McCartney's eighth non-Beatles live album to chart.

Back in the top 10 this week, Andrea Bocelli's "My Christmas" surges at No. 2 with 185,000 and a gain of 36%, while Michael Jackson's "This Is It" slides from No. 4 to No. 7 with 96,000 (down 18%). The "New Moon" soundtrack moves up two rungs to No. 8 with 93,000 and a 77% gain in sales. Rounding out the holdovers in the top 10, Carrie Underwood's "Play On" drops from No. 3 to No. 9 with 86,000 (down 33%) and Taylor Swift's "Fearless" maintains falls five spots to No. 10 with 84,000 (down 8%).

As previously reported, Mayer will likely relinquish the Billboard 200 throne next week as Susan Boyle's "I Dreamed a Dream" album is set to debut in the top slot. Industry sources say that the set could sell as much as 600,000 copies by week's end on Sunday night (Nov. 29). It even has a chance of netting the best sales week of the year for an album, which is currently held by the debut of Eminem's "Relapse" with 608,000.

Old is new again on the Billboard 200 this week, as a bevy of fresh (old) faces dot our newly revamped chart. The tally has been modified to allow older album releases (called "catalog") back onto the list.

In the top 20, two catalog sets return to the chart: Casting Crowns' "Peace on Earth" (No. 15 with 56,000; up 17%) and Taylor Swift's "Sounds of the Season" (No. 20 with 45,000; down less than 1%).

Since May 25, 1991, catalog albums have had their own Billboard home: the Top Pop Catalog chart. Catalog albums are defined as those that are at least 18 months old, have fallen below No. 100 on the Billboard 200 chart and do not have an active single on our radio charts. . This week, which also not coincidentally marks the first chart week of Billboard's 2010 chart year, we have made over the Billboard 200 so that older titles are brought back into the mix.

Overall album sales in this past chart week (ending Nov. 22) totaled 7.98 million units, up 13% compared to the sum last week (7.04 million) and down 16% compared to the same sales week of 2008 (9.45 million). Year to date album sales stand at 309.5 million, down 13% compared to the same total at this point last year (357.8 million).