For ‘Pain,’ no gain

Ja Rule disc stays No. 1, despite 40% sales dip

Roughnecked hip-hop still rules the record charts, but it’s getting some stiff competition from the queen of non-threatening pop.

Queens-born rap sensation Ja Rule’s “Pain Is Love” (Island/Def Jam) spent its third week at No. 1 in the most recent album rankings, according to SoundScan data. But sales of the sophomore CD dipped nearly 40% to 221,000 — mirroring a broader sales slump across the board this week.

One of the few acts to buck that trend was Enya, the ethereal Irish songstress whose Warner Bros. album “Day Without Rain” climbed 27% to 162,000, moving up one spot to second place after a multiweek rebound. Radio stations and fans alike have flocked to the single “Only Time,” whose cathartic lyrical themes are striking a chord in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. “Day” has sold more than 3 million copies to date.

The week’s best opening performance came from Bubba Sparxxx, the good ol’ boy rapper whose career has catapulted thanks to the deft, breakbeat-heavy production of hip-hop guru Timbaland. “Dark Days, Bright Nights” (Interscope) moved 132,000 units, scoring yet another top 10 debut for No. 1 record conglom Universal Music Group.

Beyond Bubba, high-selling debuts were hard to come by in the latest outing. Fifteen-year-old British vocal wonder Charlotte Church landed at No. 15 with her fourth Sony record, “Enchantment,” which scanned 66,000 discs.

Meanwhile, the gangsta-rap flavored soundtrack to the Snoop Dogg feature “Bones” (Priority/Capitol) dropped to 39, the patriotic compilation “Proud To Be an American” from specialty imprint Turn Up the Music came in at 50, and “For the Love” (MCA), a new effort from veteran Philly Soul group the O’Jays, opened at 53.

Ja Rule and Enya will have to contend with a new rival next week, as the wizened heavy metaler Ozzy Osbourne debuts “Down to Earth” (Epic). Also on deck is “God Bless America,” a WTC-benefit compilation from Columbia Records, which includes tracks from such superstars as Celine Dion, Bob Dylan and Frank Sinatra.

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