'Songs' squeezes past D12, Jagged Edge

NEW YORK — It didn’t take Clive Davis long to find his way back to the top of the charts.

The former Artista topper’s nascent label J Records scored its first No. 1 debut this week as R&B songstress Alicia Keys fought off stiff competition at the top of the album chart.

Keys’ “Songs in A Minor” sold 236,000 copies in the week ended Sunday, according to data compiled by SoundScan, just squeaking past the week’s other two contenders, Eminem proteges D12 and R&B quartet Jagged Edge.

Keys’ performance is one of several milestones for J as it approaches its one-year anniversary in August. O-Town, the teen pop outfit born out of the ABC series “Making the Band,” is teetering on the verge of platinum status in the U.S. And last week, J flagship act Luther Vandross logged his best-ever debut at No. 6, with 135,000 copies scanned.

J prexy and operating chief Charles Goldstuck said the success of “Songs in A Minor” is rooted in a handful of live club dates set up by Davis early in Keys’ career, which generated strong word-of-mouth. That response snowballed into the mainstream, thanks to heavy play on both radio and music video channels, he added.

“We’ve been working hard to set up the project over the last six months, and now we’re finally seeing the results of that,” Goldstuck said.

D12 debut effort “Devil’s Night” (Shady/Interscope) moved 221,000 units. Jagged Edge’s third disc, “Jagged Little Thrill” (So So Def/Columbia), enjoyed a surprisingly strong debut, shifting just under 215,000.

Meanwhile, Philly-born hard-core rapper Beanie Sigel also enjoyed a top-five bow this week, dropping onto the charts at five with “The Reason” (Def Jam). The Jay-Z protege’s sophomore effort sold 151,000 records on its first week out.

The soundtrack to sleeper B.O. hit “The Fast and The Furious” (Def Jam) gained a place this week to creep into the last spot on the top 10. Album has paced the L.A. street-racing pic’s unexpected popularity, selling more than 334,000 units in just four weeks on the charts. “Furious” also marks an auspicious start for Interscope/Def Jam’s newly unveiled soundtrack division.

Other debuts to place well in the latest rankings were “I’m Already There” (BMG/BNA) by country-pop act Lonestar at nine and rapper Lil’ Mo’s first album, “Based on a True Story” (Elektra), at 14.

Several artists suffered substantial downturns in sales after making respectable bows just a week or two earlier. Rap-rockers 311 suffered a 58% decline in second-week sales on “From Chaos” (Volcano); Stone Temple Pilots’ “Shangri-la Dee Da” (Atlantic) tumbled 57%; and Radiohead’s “Amnesiac” (Capitol) slid 32% in its fourth week.

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