Britney Spears’ ‘Circus’ debuts at #1

Jive release sells 505,000 copies in first week

Britney Spears’ “Circus” (Jive) sold 505,000 in its first week, making Spears the first singer to have four albums sell more than a half-million copies in their opening sessions. It is Spears’ fifth chart topper, a significant return to form after her flawed comeback attempt in 2007.

New album’s first single, “Womanizer,” made a record-breaking leap to No. 1 in mid-October. Last week, during her first week of sales, Spears announced her North American tour on “Good Morning America.” Dates were recently added to up the tour to 41 concerts in the U.S. and eight at London’s O2 Arena.

The return of Spears in 2008 is significantly different than a year earlier when her return included a disjointed performance on the MTV VMAs, “Blackout” posted her lowest first-week sales (290,000) and the singles that followed “Gimme More” flopped. At the time, “Blackout” was Spears’ first album in four years, and it was released on the heels of the pop idol becoming a fixture in the tabloids. Its sales cume, after 13 months, is only 926,000.

The atmosphere following Spears’ retreat from Hollywood nightclubs, courtrooms and TMZ reports has seemingly opened the door for acceptance of Spears’ music. It’s certainly no return to her single-week mega-sales — 1.3 million copies of “Oops! I Did It Again” were sold in 2000, followed by “Britney” (746,000 in 2001) and “In the Zone” (609,000 in 2003) — but the musical landscape surrounding Spears is dramatically different, too: In the comparable sales week in 2001, which had no debuts, 27 albums had sales of more than 100,000; last week, there were seven. And unlike current albums, “Britney” was able to keep selling at a good clip, moving 2 million copies between Nov. 6, 2001, and Dec. 9, 2001.

The biggest debut after “Circus” was Akon’s “Freedom” (Konvict/Universal), which sold 111,000 to open at No. 7, less than half the first-week sales of his 2006 disc “Konvicted.”

Top 40 saw only two other debuts: Scarface’s “Emeritus” sold 42,000 (No. 24), and Neil Young’s “Sugar Mountain — Live at Canterbury Hall” (Reprise), an archival release of an acoustic concert from 1968, moved 26,000 to hit No. 40. The “Cadillac Records” soundtrack (Columbia), featuring Beyonce, Mos Def and others covering blues tunes from Chess Records and adding some contempo originals, sold 16,000 (No. 66).

Last week’s No. 1, Kanye West’s “808s & Heartbreak,” sold 142,000 copies and dropped to No. 4, a 69% dip. His album was hardly alone among top 10 albums that took significant plunges during the week.

Ludacris’ “Theater of the Mind” and the Killers’ “Day and Age” experienced 69% sales dips as well, as both dropped 10 slots. Ludacris sold 65,000 copies (No. 15); the Killers did 61,000 (No. 16). Guns N’ Roses’ “Chinese Democracy” took the biggest pounding, selling 57,000 copies — a 78% drop — and slid 15 slots to No. 18.

The announcement of the Grammy Awards nominations on primetime on Dec. 3 had a negligible effect on sales. None of the top nominees or performers in the top 50 registered sales increases, and only three nominated artists in the top 200 saw a rise from the week previous. Adele’s “19” was up 2,000 to 13,000 (No. 78); the Eagles’ “Long Road Out of Eden” was up slightly to 8,000 (No. 119); and Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ “Raising Sand” returned to the chart at No. 159 on sales of 6,000.

Show co-host Taylor Swift saw her “Fearless” hold onto No. 2 despite a sales slide of 74,000 units to 193,000 sold in the week. Best new artist nominees the Jonas Brothers held steady, selling 44,000 copies of “A Little Bit Longer” and rising three slots to No. 22. “My Love,” the hits collection from Celine Dion, who performed on the telecast, saw a 10% sales bump to 17,000 (No. 62).

Besides Andre Bocelli’s “Incanto” (35,000 sold, No. 33), Christmas records were the only albums in the top 50 to experience sales bumps.

“Elvis Presley Christmas Duets” was up 15,0000 units to 57,000 (No. 17); Harry Connick Jr.’s “What a Night!” was up 12,000 to 48,000 (No. 20); and Yo-Yo Ma’s “Songs of Joy & Peace” rose 4,000 to 38,000 (No. 29).

Leading holiday sellers remain Faith Hill’s “Joy to the World” (No. 13 with a cume of 269,000) and Enya’s “And Winter Came” (No. 14, 308,000 sold to date). Holiday albums by Amy Grant, Julianne Hough, Mannheim Steamroller, Kristin Chenoweth, Celtic Woman, Aretha Franklin and Mary Chapin Carpenter rose more than 20 slots last week.

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