First British female artist to debut at No. 1

Leona Lewis’ “Spirit” (J Records/SyCo Music) sold 205,000 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan, marking the first time in music history that a British female artist has debuted at No. 1 in the U.S.

Disc’s sales are the highest for a female artist’s debut since Carrie Underwood in 2005. Lewis’ “Bleeding Love” track has now sold 1.1 million downloads.

Lewis, the 2006 champ on Simon Cowell’s “The X Factor,” is the first winner of a televised U.K. singing competition to cross over in the States. The previous high-water mark came from Paul Potts, who won “Britain’s Got Talent.” His “One Chance” sold 22,000 copies in its first week in the U.S. in mid-September, then went on to sell about 25,000 copies per week during the holiday season. Its cume is now around 370,000.

“In the last 12 months, we were lucky to have Paul Potts and Leona,” Cowell told Daily Variety.” Both crossed over all over the world. It’s always our intention to (select) performers who can become international superstars. At the moment, these shows in the U.K. are becoming more credible and we’re getting more contestants. After the second ‘Pop Idol’ and the first ‘X Factor,’ nothing happened (for the performers) and I wondered if the shows were worth doing. It really is the luck of the draw, and we now have a larger (talent) pool.”

Lewis made her U.S. performance debut at Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy party in February, and in mid-March, she appeared on “Oprah” and “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.” Lewis is scheduled to perform on “The Tyra Banks Show” today and next week on “American Idol.” Intriguingly, it is quite likely that on next week’s chart she will be replaced by this week’s guest, Mariah Carey.

While no other album sold more than 60,000 copies in the week ended Sunday, there were seven debuts in the top 30.

Country singer James Otto, who was dropped from Mercury in 2004 after one album, saw his first disc for Warner Bros., “Sunset Man,” sell 58,000 copies to open at No. 3. “All I Feel” (Koch), from R&B singer Ray J, younger brother of Brandy, sold 39,000 to take No. 7. “When Angels and Serpents Dance” (Columbia), the seventh album from P.O.D., sold 34,000 copies to debut at No. 9, making it their fourth top-10 debut. Time Life’s R&B collection “Body & Soul: Midnight Fire” sold 28,000 to start at No. 11.

Nine Inch Nails’ instrumental work “Ghosts I-IV,” released on the band’s own Null Corp. label, sold 26,000 in the first week it was made available through sources beyond the band’s website. NIN started selling “Ghosts I-IV” on March 2 and grossed $1.6 million on 781,917 transactions divided between free downloads and physical product such as a $300 “Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition.” Album download is being sold for $5 at Amazon.com.

Marie Digby, whose acoustic rendition of “Umbrella” became a YouTube sensation, saw her Hollywood Records’ debut “Unfold” go home with 18,000 buyers. Ashes Divide’s “Keep Telling Myself It’s Alright” (Island) sold 16,000 copies to open at No. 36.

Last week’s No. 1, George Strait’s “Troubadour,” slid to No. 2 on sales of 59,000.

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