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‘Music’ rocks to chart top

Includes faves from Britney, U2, Shaggy

NEW YORK — Straight from mainstream radio into your CD player, the sixth installment of Sony/Epic’s compilation series “Now That’s What I Call Music!” blasted its way to the top of the album charts this week, knocking late rapper Tupac Shakur back into the hereafter.

“Now 6,” as it’s commonly called, shifted more than 525,000 units for the week ended Sunday, according to rankings data from SoundScan. The album includes such heavy-rotation faves as Britney Spears’ “Stronger,” U2’s “Beautiful Day” and Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me.”

The “Now 6” debut is the strongest yet for the series, all of which have gone platinum. “Now 5,” released just before Christmas, is still in the ranks at No. 55, with 4.2 million copies sold. Epic sales veep Steve Kennedy said the series “is a brand name at this point, which works to everybody’s benefit” in encouraging anticipation and building longevity.

Kennedy said “Now 6” is tracking even stronger this week than last, meaning it likely will go platinum in its second week out.

The compilation bumped Shakur’s double-CD “Until the End of Time” (Death Row/Interscope) into second place, with sales slipping 43% from its opening week to 243,000.

Sony imprints enjoyed three other strong debuts this week. “Life,” the third Epic LP from soul lothario Ginuwine, bowed at No. 3 with 152,000 copies sold, and Bruce Springsteen’s “Live in New York,” (Columbia), which chronicles the Boss’ April 7 HBO concert special, landed at fifth — among the best performances for a live album in recent memory.

Following in Shakur’s footsteps, the posthumous album “Endangered Species” (Sony/Loud) from MC Big Pun opened in seventh place, with sales of 81,000. “Species” includes 25 tracks of old and new material, including appearances by Nas, Fat Joe and Raekwon.

Showing formidable legs this week was the soundtrack to the Coen brothers’ “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (Mercury Nashville). Album, which made its debut just before New Year’s at 192, worked its way up to peak at 13 two weeks ago, selling more than 800,000 copies to date. This week, “O Brother” slipped from 14 to 19, but sales actually increased slightly, to 57,000.

Entering the charts at a surprisingly tepid 37 was “Crown Royal,” the guest star-laden LP from Queens rap legends Run-DMC. The Arista release, which includes appearances with everyone from Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst to ex-Jane’s Addiction drummer Stephan Jenkins scanned just under 42,000 units.

Also on the debut list was “Arrival” (Columbia), the latest from arena-rock veterans Journey, at 56; “Thug Lord: New Testament” (Virgin), from Bay Area rapper Yukmouth, at 71; and “Mutter” (Universal), from German metalers Rammstein, at 77.

Among the biggest gainers this week were soundtracks to two movies reveling in girl power: “Charlie’s Angels” (Columbia) advanced 25 places to 74, following the film’s release on video, and “Josie & the Pussycats” (Epic) got a 30-spot boost to 82 in the week of its bigscreen debut.

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