Madonna parlays pub into big bow

Pop diva's 'Life' opens at No. 1; Clarkson drops to third

This article was updated at 9:37 p.m.

NEW YORK — Madonna parlayed a series of public and televised appearances into healthy album sales as her “American Life” debuted at the top spot in the album charts, pushing “American Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson down to third place in her sophomore week.

The 44-year-old singer moved nearly 241,000 copies of her fourth Warner Bros. studio disc in the past nine years, according to data compiled by SoundScan. Sales were driven, in classic Madonna style, by a wave of controversy and publicity.

Last week, 8.7 million people watched Matt Lauer interview her on “Dateline,” MTV aired a Madonna special, she appeared on “Regis & Kelly” and did a guest stint on NBC’s “Will & Grace” that was seen by 17.7 million viewers. On April 23, Madonna did an in-store appearance at the downtown Manhattan Tower Records.

Before the release of the disc, Madonna’s video for the title track was pulled from vid channels and dubbed insensitive to the war effort in Iraq. She later made the news again by planting a fake song on file-sharing network Kazaa, which includes a loop of the singer asking would-be pirates, “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

It was the first release in her past four to show a sales dip from the previous disc. Her 2000 release “Music” sent nearly 420,000 copies out the door in its debut week; “Ray of Light,” released in March 1998, sold nearly 371,000; and in October 1994, “Bedtime Stories” did 145,000 in first-week sales.

‘Life’ tops in U.K.

“American Life” also debuted at No. 1 in the U.K. last week, making it her third straight No. 1 debut there. Overseas it replaced Coldplay’s “A Rush of Blood to the Head” at the top.

The second-highest bow of the frame in the U.S. went to the soundtrack to Disney kidpic “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” (Buena Vista), which landed in the 18th spot. Album, which features tracks from star Hilary Duff as well as LMNT, Atomic Kitten and Dean Martin, sold 51,000 copies — an impressive number considering pic doesn’t open until Friday. Most soundtracks see significant sales spikes once the pic opens.

Disney is making a healthy marketing push targeting kids and tweens, pushing Duff’s “Why Not” on MTV’s “TRL,” a show thesp is scheduled to host today. Radio Disney is getting heavy response to its promotion “Why Not Spend the Day With Hilary Duff.”

Meanwhile, the other TV-driven star, Kelly Clarkson, slipped to No. 3 with her debut album “Thankful” (RCA). The prefab pop star suffered a sales falloff of more than 55% to just under 134,000, but it still put Clarkson within a week’s sales of a gold record.

Rapper 50 Cent’s “Get Rich or Die Tryin’ ” (Interscope) continues to get rich, selling 142,000 units and landing at No. 2.

Holdovers slide

Sales tumbled across the board for this session’s top performers, following an uncharacteristically strong week the last time around. All of the non-debut discs in the top 20 headed downward; among the most precipitous drops were “Have You Forgotten” (DreamWorks) by Darryl Worley, which sank by 66%, and the 50 Cent CD/DVD release “New Breed” (Interscope) with a decline of 69%.

Also debuting were “Vol. 1 — Murder Mix” (Landspeed), from Queens rap duo Mobb Deep, at 21 with 46,000 records sold, and “Blessed Hellride” (Spitfire), from former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society, at No. 50 on sales of 19,000 discs.

The Blue Man Group’s second album and its first for Lava, “Complex,” sold more than 16,000 units. Much-hyped jazz singer Peter Cincotti, whose self-titled Concord debut has held steady on the jazz charts for a few months, finally cracked the pop charts on sales of nearly 9,000 units.

Among those vying for real estate in next week’s charts are a compilation of ballads from the stars of “American Idol’s” second season, as well as new material from Long Island-bred R&B singer Lil’ Mo and “dirty South” rapper Bonecrusher.

(Phil Gallo in Hollywood contributed to this report.)

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