The debut effort from Ashanti storms a pair of Billboard charts this week after her self-titled debut racked up sales of a whopping 502,500 copies, according to SoundScan. Based on those numbers, the Murder Inc./Def Jam set soars straight to No. 1 on The Billboard 200 and the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums count. Meanwhile, the album’s title track comfortably begins its fourth-week on top of the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks roundup, and jumps 3-1 on the Hot 100 (where it is the chart’s fastest growing track at radio), giving Ashanti a No. 1 on a total of four Billboard charts.
Ashanti’s sales numbers mark the second-strongest entry of the year, as only Celine Dion’s “A New Day Has Come” (Epic) had a higher first week total with 558,000 units last week. Additionally, Ashanti posts the highest first-week sales numbers for a new artist in nearly five years, the length of time it has been since Puff Daddy’s “No Way Out” (Bad Boy) sold 561,000 copies in its first week. Ashanti also sets a record for first-week sales of a debut album by a solo female artist, taking the title from Lauryn Hill, whose “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” (Columbia) opened with sales of 423,000 copies in 1998.
Ashanti owes her big debut to the exposure she received from appearing on three hit singles, beginning with a guest shot on Ja Rule’s “Always on Time,” which hit No. 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks tally in January. She also offered her vocals on Fat Joe’s “What’s Luv?,” currently at its peak of No. 3 on the same tally and No. 2 on the Hot 100, and Big Pun’s “How We Roll,” which peaked at No. 16 on the Hot Rap Singles chart.
Ashanti isn’t the only R&B newcomer making noise on the charts this week, as Tweet sees her The Gold Mind/Elektra debut “Southern Hummingbird” flutter its way to a No. 3 bow on The Billboard 200. After selling 195,000 units, the set also flies in at No.2 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The album features her single “Oops (Oh My),” a former No. 1 hit in urban markets that rests at No. 4 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart, and is at its peak a No. 8 on the Hot 100.
Between Ashanti and Tweet on The Billboard 200 lies Dion’s “A New Day Has Come.” The album suffered a 50% hit in its second week to 263,000 units, even as the album’s self-titled radio single jumps 33-27 on the Hot 100. The ninth volume in the “NOW! That’s What I Call Music” (Universal/Sony/EMI/Zomba/Sony) series slips 2-4 after a 58% sales hit to a still mighty 194,000 units.
Elsewhere on The Billboard 200, Nappy Roots’ “Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz” (Atlantic) blasts 41-28 on a 15% sales burst as the group’s “AWNNAW” bolts 33-31 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart. Singer/songwriter John Mayer continues to march up The Billboard 200, as his “Room for Squares” (Aware/Columbia) climbs 61-38.
Detroit rock duo the White Stripes rockets 116-61 on The Billboard 200 with “White Blood Cells” (Sympathy for the Record Industry). The group recently performed on the “Late Show with David Letterman,” and has been getting a fair amount of MTV2 exposure with the video for “Fell in Love with a Girl,” which is No. 18 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart.
The Grammy-winning Lost Highway/Mercury soundtrack to “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” beings its 32nd week at the top of Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart, holding Alan Jackson’s “Drive” (Arista Nashville) to No. 2 for another week. “O Brother” holds steady at No. 5 on The Billboard 200.
Billboard’s Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart has a new No. 1 as Toby Keith’s “My List” marks the artist’s third single to top the tally. Keith’s move knocks out Chris Cagle’s “I Breathe In, I Breathe Out,” which falls to No. 3 behind Kenny Chesney’s “Young,” which moves up two slots to No. 2.
The top debut on the Hot 100 is No Doubt’s “Hella Good” at No. 63. Other notable entries include Truth Hurts’ “Addictive” featuring Rakim at No. 71, Cam’Ron’s “Oh Boy” featuring Juelz Santana at No. 77, Nas’ “One Mic” at No. 79, and Brian McKnight’s “Tell Me What’s It Gonna Be” featuring Jermaine Dupri at No. 97. The Hot 100’s fastest-growing track at retail is Naughty By Nature’s “Feels Good (Don’t Worry ‘Bout a Thing),” which is up four slots to No. 76.
Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle” is No. 1 for a second-straight week on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks tally and ascends 43-34 on the Hot 100. Puddle Of Mudd’s “Blurry” notches its 10th-straight week in charge of Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.