Country crooner Rimes tops pop sales chart

Curb Records country songstress Leann Rimes made history Wednesday by topping the nation’s sales chart with her sophomore offering “Unchained Melody: The Early Years,” according to execs at Curb Records. The disc, which sold 166,000 copies during the week ending Feb. 16, joins her debut “Blue,” which holds the chart’s eighth position.

It marks the first time in the SoundScan era that a country newcomer landed a pair of discs in the top 10 of the pop album charts.

“Blue,” which has sold more than 3 million copies in its 32 weeks of release, moved just south of 85,000 copies during the week.

Rimes’ discs also occupy the top two slots of the country album chart, earning the 14-year-old singer another unique place in chart history.

Landing the pop chart’s place position was Universal Records artist Erykah Badu, whose debut “Baduizm” has found favor at radio.

The singer’s bow also benefited from the label’s long-term marketing set-up, which helped the disc move 159,000 copies in its first week on sale.

Whether Rimes’ disc will maintain its hold on the top spot will depend on how strong the sales remain for “Tragic Kingdom,” the disc from Interscope Records act No Doubt.

The disc, which nabbed the third berth on the chart on sales of 131,000, has practically had a lock on the top spot for the past three months. More than 5.4 million copies of the disc have been sold, and it has spent more than one-fifth of its nearly one year in release in the upper rungs of the chart.

In fourth place was Jewel’s “Pieces of You,” as the Atlantic Records disc rang registers 105,000 times. The diminutive singer’s disc has seen a significant sales ascension in the wake of her Grammy nominations and the resulting higher profile.

At No. 5, “Secrets,” from LaFace/Arista Records crooner Toni Braxton, sold just under 105,000 copies.

The much-ballyhooed Spice Girls managed to hold on to their sixth-place berth, where the group’s debut “Spice” entered two weeks ago. The disc moved 104,000 in this round.

Celine Dion, whose “Falling Into You” disc is just shy of hitting the 7 million sales mark, dropped two spots on sales of just under 104,000 copies. The Epic Records disc was released 49 weeks ago and was the bestselling disc of 1996.

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