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‘Idol’s’ runner-up leads pack

Aiken the 'Man' in chart-topping debut

Clay Aiken, the scarecrow-limbed runner-up on the second edition of “American Idol,” reached astonishing heights with sales of nearly 613,000 copies of his debut album for the week ending Sunday, according to SoundScan.

“Measure of a Man” (RCA) is the year’s third-biggest-selling debut, coming in behind 50 Cent’s “Get Rich or Die Tryin’ ” with first week sales of 872,000, and Linkin Park’s “Meteora” at 810,000. It more than doubled the numbers posted by biggest-selling “American Idol” contestant to date: Kelly Clarkson, winner of the first edition, sold 297,00 copies of “Thankful” in its first week in April. “Thankful” has a cume of 1.6 million.

Aiken’s two-song single of “This is the Night” and his version of Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” sat at No. 1 for more than two months this summer.

Worth the wait

At one point, RCA had scheduled “Measure of a Man” for a mid-August release simultaneous with the debut from “American Idol 2” winner Ruben Studdard. Both discs were moved back; Studdard’s J Records album “Soulful” is slated to be in stores Nov. 11.

Last week’s top dog, Ludacris’ “Chicken & Beer” (Def Jam) slipped one slot on sales of nearly 194,000. Columbia Records’ R&B crooners Jagged Edge saw their “Hard” debut at No. 3 on sales of almost 178,000.

Columbia also got a strong debut from Barbra Streisand’s “The Movie Album,” which landed at No. 5 on sales of 162,000. Album of classic movie tunes such as “Moon River,” is Streisand’s highest charting album since 1997’s “Higher Ground.” It is her 53rd charting album in her 40-year recording career. “Movie Album’s” position also makes Streisand the rare artist with a top 5 album in five consecutive decades.

More bows

Other debuts included Jonny Lang’s “Long Time Coming” (A&M) at 17 on sales of 54,000; Mariah Carey “Remixes” at 26 on 40,000 plus; Warner Bros.’ “Ultimate Rat Pack Collection” with a CD and DVD of Frank, Sammy and Dino at No. 38 on sales of nearly 29,000. Cleveland mask-wearers Mushroomhead sold 28,000 copies of “XIII” (Universal) to hit No. 40, and Travis’ “12 Memories” (Epic) was a notch below at 27,000 sold.

At No. 27 was Sony Legacy’s “Essential Simon & Garfunkel” just topping 40,000. It is the highest debut for one of Sony’s greatest hits sets dubbed “Essential.” Simon & Garfunkel began their 29-city reunion tour last week in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Sweet soundtrack

The soundtrack to “Kill Bill Vol. 1” (Warner Bros.) was the week’s biggest gainer, more than doubling sales to 24,000 copies and moving up 70 spaces to No. 45.

Indications are good that BMG will dominate the early part of the holiday sales season. Besides Aiken’s disc, which even if it slips 50% will still beat other chart vets by at least 100,000 copies, Outkast’s “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” appears to have legs (No. 4 on sales of 168,000) and Dido’s “Life for Rent” saw only a slight dip (to No. 6 on sales of 101,000). Rod Stewart’s “As Time Goes By … The Great American Songbook: Vol. II” (J Records) appears destined for a top five debut. November will see the release of Sarah McLachlan’s “Afterglow” as well as Studdard’s disc a week later.

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