McGraw nabs No. 2 spot

NEW YORK — Janet Jackson perched herself decisively atop the album charts this week, blowing away even the most optimistic sales estimates and giving her label EMI a healthy shot in the arm as it recovers from the post-breakup blues.

“All For You,” Jackson’s third LP released since signing to EMI’s Virgin Records for more than $30 million in 1991, scanned 605,000 copies in the week ended Sunday, according to SoundScan data. That’s 100,000 to 200,000 more than most industry observers had foreseen.

The debut is encouraging news for EMI, which is eager to demonstrate that it can survive on its own following news earlier this week that a merger between EMI and BMG Entertainment had fallen through amid antitrust concerns from European regulators.

In fact, Virgin may be looking to corner the market on female R&B divas: Last month, the label signed former Sony Music star Mariah Carey to a deal reportedly worth north of $80 million.

Coming in at No. 2 was another formidable chart bow by hit country crooner and Faith Hill hubby Tim McGraw. “Set This Circus Down” (Curb) moved more than 223,000 copies in its opening week.

The bow, which follows last week’s No. 4 open by country duo Brooks & Dunn, offers hope for a mini-revival for the genre’s male stars, who had been eclipsed by such female hitmakers as Hill, Shania Twain and the Dixie Chicks.

However, Brooks & Dunn’s latest, “Steers & Stripes” (Arista), has shown little staying power, cooling in its second week to 18.

Case in point

Also debuting in the top 10 was suave Gotham-based R&B vocalist Case. His third Def Jam release, “Open Letter,” came in at No. 5, selling 93,000 copies.

The Bee Gees logged a solid first week’s performance with “This Is Where I Came In” (Universal), which landed at No. 16. The latest effort in the brothers Gibb’s 36-year career shifted just over 54,000 units.

Also entering the charts this week were “Digimortal” (Roadrunner) from techno-metalers Fear Factory at 32, the soundtrack to hit Fox skein “Ally McBeal” (Epic) at 34 and “Sneak Attack” from KRS-One — the South Bronx rap pioneer’s second LP since moving from Jive to indie label Koch Intl. — at 43.

Battle brewing

The stage is set for an all-out battle in next week’s album rankings: The much-anticipated sophomore effort from multiplatinum-selling trio Destiny’s Child, titled “Survivor” (Columbia), will go head-to-head for the top spot with Jackson’s “All For You.”

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