Bruce Springsteen's 'Wrecking Ball' to pose challenge next week

Adele’s “21″ continued its lengthy roll as the 54-week-old album held its No. 1 slot on the U.S. album chart for a 23rd non-consecutive week.

The Columbia title — the only album to occupy No. 1 to date in 2012 — reaped sales of 247,000 units last week (off 17%), according to Nielsen SoundScan figures for the week ended March 4. The vocalist’s 2008 debut “19″ hung tough at No. 7 with 37,000 sold (down just 6%).

If the British singer’s Grammy-winning “21″ can maintain its position for another week, it will tie 24-week runs at the pinnacle set in the pre-SoundScan era by two bestselling soundtracks, Prince’s “Purple Rain” (1984-85) and the Bee Gees’ “Saturday Night Fever” (1977-78).

However, “21″ will have to stave off a challenge next week by a heavily publicized new release, Bruce Springsteen’s politically charged “Wrecking Ball,” which reached stores Tuesday.

The Boss has played the spoiler before: Three years ago, Springsteen’s last new studio album “Working On a Dream” entered at No. 1 with a 224,000-unit bow, ending a seven-week run at the apex by Taylor Swift’s bestselling “Fearless.”

Despite a drop of 36%, Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Hits” (Arista/Sony) holds at No. 2, tracking 112,000 copies. The late vocalist accounts for three titles in the top 10: her soundtrack for “The Bodyguard” climbs one position to No. 5 (43,000 sold, off 9%), while her debut set “Whitney Houston” dips one rung to No. 10 (25,000, down 15%).

Houston, who died Feb. 11, accounts for nine positions among the national top 100 albums this week.

Only fresh title in the top 10 is the self-titled release by WZRD, a rock side project by top rapper Kid Cudi. Set arrives at No. 3 with a 66,000-unit debut stanza. Cudi attracted attention last week after he excoriated his label Universal Republic on Twitter for its purported under-shipment of the release.

Rest of the week’s top 10 albums include the “Now 41″ compilation (No. 4, 46,000 sold, down 15%), Tyga’s “Careless World” (No. 6, 37,000, off 39%), Drake’s “Take Care” (No. 8, 29,000, up 13%) and Rihanna’s “Talk That Talk” (No. 9, 25,000, up 9%).

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