Ashanti keeps Beyonce at bay

Evanescence takes third spot behind diva duo

Murder Inc. diva Ashanti reigned over the album charts again this week, topping former Destiny’s Child singer Beyonce Knowles once more despite a precipitous second-week slump in record sales.

Fans snapped up more than 135,000 copies of Ashanti’s sophomore effort, “Chapter II” (Murder Inc./Def Jam), in the latest session, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That’s down nearly 60% from last week’s bow with 326,000 discs scanned.

Sales of Knowles’ solo debut, “Dangerously in Love” (Columbia), also tumbled, though not as steeply, as she clung to the No. 2 slot. Singer’s numbers slipped by 28% to 132,000 units, putting her three-week total well above 600,000 discs.

‘Fallen’ up

Just below the diva duel in third was Arkansas hard-rock act Evanescence, which shot up four places and boosted sales of disc “Fallen” (Wind-Up) by 5% to 72,000 copies. Group, which has sold more than 1.7 million discs, has led a resurgence for Wind-Up, which had been labeled by some as a one-hit wonder after the stellar success of rockers Creed.

The balance of the top 10 remained largely the same as last week, with the exception of country crooner Trace Adkins taking a bow at ninth. Adkins’ “Vol. 1 — Greatest Hits Collection” (Capitol Nashville) shifted just over 56,000 copies in its first time out.

Also opening strong was the English-language debut from Mexican pop star Thalia. Landing in 11th place, the self-titled Virgin Records release sold more than 50,000 copies following a hefty marketing blitz from Thalia’s manager-husband, former Sony Music topper Tommy Mottola.

Jazzy bow

The only other release to crack the top 100 in a slow week was “New York City” (Koch), a jazz release from the Peter Malick Group, which features the vocal stylings of none other than superstar chanteuse Norah Jones. Album hit No. 54, scanning just under 20,000 units.

Several return performers made substantial gains this week. Jimmy Buffett best-of collection “Meet Me in Margaritaville” (MCA) moved up eight spots to No. 27 on a 19% sales gain; Celine Dion’s “One Heart” (Epic) added 26 spots to 28, boosting sales by more than 50%; and the gospel collection “Worship Together” (Time Life) gained 32 places to 43 as sales climbed by 54%.

It will be hip-hop and R&B week next time out, with new material on the way from Midwestern rapper Chingy, Da Brat, Macy Gray and Keith Murray, as well as the soundtrack to Will Smith/Martin Lawrence actioner “Bad Boys II.”

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