The latest album from 50 Cent far outpaced the competition to debut this week at No. 1 on The Billboard 200. Particularly notable is that 1.14 million copies of “The Massacre” (Shady/Aftermath/Interscope) were sold in just four days, yet it still ranks as the sixth largest opening week since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking U.S. sales in 1991.
In fact, along with garnering the rapper his career-best sales week, it’s the largest total of any title with a shortened release week. The street date for “The Massacre” was accelerated from March 8 to the off-cycle Thursday release on March 3 to thwart the availability of pirated copies.
50 Cent held the previous record for an abbreviated first week with his first Interscope distributed album, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’.” That set opened with 872,000 copies in February 2003 and stood as Nielsen SoundScan’s largest weekly sales total of that year.
The stature of the chart-topping debut of “Massacre” is further exalted by the fact that it easily leads a quartet of consecutive Billboard 200 debuts.
Jennifer Lopez takes second place with her fourth Epic studio album, “Rebirth,” with sales of 261,000 copies. She earned her first No. 1 with 2001’s “J. Lo” — which started with 272,000 and has earned 3.7 million to date.
Jack Johnson scores his biggest sales week with his third Brushfire Records set “In Between Dreams,” which bows at No. 3 on the strength of 228,000 units. The champion surfer also debuted No. 3 with 2003’s “On & On,” which began with 132,000 and has sold 1.2 million to date.
At No. 4 with “Frances the Mute,” hard rock outfit the Mars Volta earns its highest chart position thanks to its best sales week if 123,000 copies. The duo’s 2003 debut, “De-Loused in the Comatorium,” debuted and peaked at No. 34 with 28,000; its to-date total is 315,000 units.
Rounding out the rest of the top 10 are a slate of familiar titles, most of which fall to make room for the new debuts. The Game’s “The Documentary” (Aftermath/G-Unit/Interscope) drops 4-5 on a 5% sales slide to 100,000, while Green Day’s “American Idiot” (Reprise) takes a 3-6 tumble on a 21% decline to 86,000 units.
Ray Charles’ “Genius Loves Company” (Concord/Hear Music) falls 2-7 with a 26% slip to 81,000 and Omarion’s “O” (T.U.G./Epic/Sony Music) descends from last week’s No. 1 perch to No. 8 on a 58% decline to 77,000 copies.
Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” (RCA) is the sole advancing title in the top tier, as it inches 10-9 despite a 2% fall to 63,000. Eminem’s “Encore” (Shady/Aftermath/Interscope) closes things out with an 8-10 drop on a 13% decline to 61,000.
Veteran metal act Judas Priest scores its highest-charting album ever with “Angel of Retribution” (Epic), which debuted at No. 13. Original vocalist Rob Halford returned to the fold for the set, which bested the band’s previous high-water mark of No. 17 with “Turbo” in 1986 and “Screaming for Vengeance” in 1982.
Other notable debuts include Jamie O’Neal’s “Brave” (EMI), which sold 25,000 to open at No. 40. Her 2000 Mercury Nashville debut, “Shiver,” bowed at No. 165 with sales of just 9,000 and has gone on to sell 515,000 copies. Pimp C’s Rap-A-Lot set “Sweet James Jones Stories” gives the rapper his first appearance on the chart at No. 50 on the strength of 23,000 units.
Josh Groban can thank Oprah and the Oscars for fueling an 80-30 jump for “Closer” (143/Reprise), which experienced a 120% boost to 32,000 units as The Billboard 200’s greatest sales gainer. The singer made a March 2 appearance on the syndicated “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and performed with Beyoncé during the Feb. 27 Academy Awards ceremony on ABC.
At 12 million units, overall U.S. album sales were up 8% over the previous week, slightly above (2%) the same week last year. Sales for 2005 are 9% below 2004 at 10 million units.