Prince achieves his first career No. 1 debut on The Billboard 200 this week with his new NPG Music/Universal album, “3121.” The set sold 183,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, to open at No. 1 on the big list, as well as on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums tally.
Prince last topped the R&B/Hip-Hop chart with 1991’s “Diamonds & Pearls.” On The Billboard 200, he now has four No. 1s, including 1989’s “Batman,” 1985’s “Around the World in a Day” and 1984’s “Purple Rain.”
The Prince set leads a charge of debuts this week as new titles from B.G., Ben Harper and Teddy Geiger all bow inside the top 10.
The soundtrack to Disney’s “High School Musical” continued with strong sales, although its 7% increase to 152,000 was not enough to stay in front of Prince, so the set falls 1-2 on The Billboard 200. James Blunt’s Atlantic release “Back to Bedlam” drops 2-3 with 111,000 (-12%), but crowns the Top Rock Albums chart for a fourth, non-consecutive week.
Barry Manilow’s “The Greatest Songs of the Fifties” rebounds 24-4 with sales of 78,000 copies, a whopping 140% increase. The Arista effort, which debuted at the top of the chart in February, got new legs after Manilow coached “American Idol” contestants and performed “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” last week on the show. Right behind him is Ne-Yo with “In My Own Words” (Def Jam), which slips one to No. 5 with 72,000 (-7%).
Rapper B.G.’s “The Heart of Tha Streetz, Vol. 2: I Am What I Am,” bows at No. 6, his best start in six years. The Koch release sold 62,000 copies and features the guest talents of former Cash Money labelmate Mannie Fresh. His 2000 album, “Checkmate,” set his high-water sales mark with 128,000 units, although at that time it was only good enough for a No. 21 debut.
Ben Harper garners his first top 10 placement with the double album “Both Sides of the Gun” (Virgin) which debuts at No. 7. Sales of 59,000 copies gave him the best single-week sales tally of his career. Harper’s last appearance on the chart was with his Blind Boys Of Alabama collaboration, “There Will Be a Light,” which opened at No. 81 in November 2004. Harper also appears on Jack Johnson’s recent No. 1 album, a companion to the film “Curious George,” which drops 10-16 this week.
Seventeen-year-old Geiger’s first full-length, “Underage Thinking” (Cred./Columbia) debuts at No. 8 on sales of 56,000. Alan Jackson’s “Precious Memories” climbs 14-9 on The Billboard 200 on a 31% jump to 56,000 copies, likely prompted by a sale at Wal-Mart this past week. The ACR/Arista Nashville release also moves up three slots to take over at No. 1 on the Top Country Albums chart.
Rounding out the top 10 is “The Legend of Johnny Cash” (Legacy/Columbia Nashville/American/Island), which falls 8-10 on sales of 53,000 units (-5%).
Kenny Rogers’ “Water & Bridges” (Capitol) bows at No. 14 with 44,000 copies, which is also good enough for a No. 5 debut on Top Country Albums. Other big debuts include From First To Last’s “Heroine” (Epitaph) at No. 25 (33,000) and My Chemical Romance’s “Life on the Murder Scene” (Reprise) at No. 30 (31,000).
At 10.6 million units, overall CD sales were up 2% from the previous week and down 13% compared to the same week a year ago. Sales for 2006 are down 4% compared to 2005 at 129.6 million units.