Despite a nasty public feud that brought an abrupt end to their joint tour over the weekend, R. Kelly and Jay-Z are chummy on top of The Billboard 200. Their ironically titled second album together, “Unfinished Business” (Jive/Def Jam/IDJMG), sold 215,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan tally, to debut at No. 1.
As reported yesterday, R. Kelly filed a $75 million breach-of-contract suit against Jay-Z after being dismissed from their co-headlining Best of Both Worlds tour. The trek took its name from the duo’s first album, 2002’s “The Best of Both Worlds,” which opened at No. 2 with first week sales of 223,000 copies; it has sold 875,000 to date.
“Unfinished Business” replaces Rod Stewart’s “Stardust…The Great American Songbook, Vol. 3” (J), which falls from the top slot to No. 4 on a 44% decrease to sales of 134,000 copies.
Trick Daddy bursts in at No. 2 with his highest charting album on The Billboard 200 and a career-best sales week. “Thug Matrimony: Married to the Streets” (Slip-N-Slide/Atlantic) moved 145,000 copies, an improvement over 2002’s “Thug Holiday,” which bowed at No. 6 with 130,000 copies; it has sold 731,000 to date. “Let’s Go,” the first single from “Matrimony,” is a top 10 track on the Billboard Hot 100.
It’s instant gratification this time around for Simple Plan, whose sophomore Lava set, “Still Not Getting Any…,” sold 139,000 copies to open at No. 3 on The Billboard 200. That’s in sharp contrast to the Canadian pop/punk act’s 2002 debut, “No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls,” which was out for two months before it appeared on the big chart. It eventually peaked at No. 35 and has sold 1.8 million copies.
“Motown Two,” Michael McDonald’s second compilation of covers tied to the venerable R&B label, is an even bigger success than the first. The new Motown set debuts at No. 9 on sales of 70,000 units, while last year’s “Motown” settled for a peak of No. 14. That set, which has sold 1.3 million to date, re-enters the chart this week at No. 158 on a 70% sales increase to 7,000 copies.
Significant interest in the Ray Charles biopic “Ray,” which opened at No. 2 at the U.S. box office last week, also translated to music sales as the WMG/Atlantic/Rhino soundtrack takes a 23-10 leap on a 50% sales increase to 55,000. Despite the hype, the late artist’s final studio set, “Genius Loves Company” (Concord/Hear Music), suffered a slight 3% decline to 96,000, and falls 5-8.
Rounding out the top 10, Nelly’s “Suit” (Derrty/Fo’Reel/Universal) falls 2-5 on a 15% slide to 130,000, Usher’s “Confessions” (LaFace/Zomba) dips 4-6 with a 19% descent to 113,000 and George Strait’s “50 number Ones” (MCA Nashville) drops 3-7 on a 27% decrease to 104,000 copies.
Gospel artist Michael W. Smith grabs his highest posting on The Billboard 200 with a No. 11 debut for “Healing Rain” (Reunion). The set opened with sales of 55,000, a bit less than 2002’s “Worship Again,” which moved 58,000 to start at No. 14. It has sold 692,000 to date.
“Blake Shelton’s Barn & Grill” gives the country artist a No. 20 start with his third Warner Bros. album based on sales of 39,000 copies. Last year’s “The Dreamer” fared a bit better, opening at No. 8 on the strength of 77,000; it has sold 627,000 to date.
Last week’s spooky holiday fueled sales of Manheim Steamroller’s “Halloween: Monster Mix” (American Gramaphone) which jumps 144-56 on a 78% increase to 15,000. Also enjoying a notable increase is Three Days Grace’s self-titled Jive set, which was reissued with a bonus DVD. The set rebounds 161-96 on 50% rise to 11,000 copies.
Overall U.S. album sales were down from the previous week by about 2% at 10.5 million units and about 5% lower than the same week last year. Year-to-date sales are ahead of 2003 by about 4.5% at 506 million units.