Columbia debut tops expectations

NEW YORK — The Dixie Chicks’ new “Home” is at the top of the album charts, eclipsing even the most bullish sales predictions for their first album since settling their high-profile legal dustup with label Sony Music this summer.

The superstar country trio sold just under 780,000 copies of the release according to SoundScan data, defying the broader industry slump by marking their best first-week performance to date. “Home” also outsold the runner-up, Eminem’s multiplatinum “The Eminem Show” (Shady/Interscope) by a factor of four. Retailers had expected sales of the new album to drop into the 500,000 range.

But the debut numbers are only the beginning, argued Columbia Records chairman Don Ienner. He noted that the record won’t be serviced to pop radio for another month, and the Chicks aren’t going on tour to support it until April. The group will also tape a television special around Christmas to give the record a holiday-shopping boost.

“There’s another two years left on this one,” Ienner told Daily Variety. “We’re happy we had a good week, but we’re in this one for the long haul.”

“Home” is the Chicks’ first release on their very own joint-venture label with Columbia, Open Wide Records. The imprint came about as part of the group’s settlement with Sony. The opposing sides traded suits earlier this year, with the label alleging breach-of-contract and the Chicks arguing that Sony had systematically underreported royalties.

The Chicks’ last two albums, 1999′s “Fly” and the 1998 release “Wide Open Spaces” have gone 10-times and 11-times platinum, respectively, according to the Recording Industry Assn. of America.

The second-best debut of the week was “A Rush of Blood to the Head” (Capitol), the sophomore effort from Brit-rock act Coldplay, which opened in fifth place. “Rush” shifted nearly 141,000 discs, a substantial leg up from their debut, 2000′s “Parachutes.”

Just behind Coldplay in a debut-heavy week — mainly to move releases away from the week of Sept. 11 — was Philly-born rapper/R&B songstress Eve, who landed at sixth with “Eve-olution” (Interscope). The Ruff Ryders crew alumna sold 123,000 copies of her third disc, which includes guest spots from Alicia Keys, Truth Hurts and Jadakiss.

Other first-timers making the top 20 included “Undaground Legend” (Loud/Columbia) from gangsta rapper Lil’ Flip at 12, “Diamond Princess” (Atlantic) from rap diva Trina at 14, and “Songs For the Deaf” (Interscope) from Queens of the Stone Age at 17.

A number of returning acts enjoyed a boost from kudos and/or performances on last week’s MTV Video Music Awards. Leading the pack was second-place finisher Eminem, who took home four awards including video of the year and subsequently got a 2% bump.

Teenage rocker Avril Lavigne, who both performed and took home best new artist honors, took far better advantage of the publicity. Lavigne’s debut “Let Go” (Arista) held fast in third place, but boosted sales by more than 16% to 150,000 records.

Singer Pink, who got two awards and performed her single “Just Like A Pill,” saw sales of her 2001 release “Mizundastood” (Arista) rise 12% to 58,000.

And Australian rock act the Vines increased sales of “Highly Evolved” (Capitol) by a healthy 31% to 34,000 — jumping seven places to 33 in the process — after performing “Get Free.” Their Battle of the Bands-style rivals on the show, the Hives, also got a bump: “Veni Vidi Vicious” (Warner Bros.) gained 14 spots to 90 as sales climbed by 38% to 15,000.

Even metal act P.O.D., which was nominated for six awards but shut out at the podium, reaped the benefits of VMA buzz. The group’s latest effort “Satellite” (Atlantic) more than doubled sales in the latest frame to 30,000, and leapt up 48 spots to 36.

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