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‘N Sync is top of the pops

Keys hits platinum as Diamond's disc surprises

HOLLYWOOD — Rumors of teen-pop’s death have been greatly exaggerated, as genre standard-bearers ‘N Sync showed convincingly by posting the second-best debut-week sales numbers in history.

As anticipated, nearly 1.9 million copies of the superstar quintet’s third Jive release “Celebrity” flew from retail shelves in the week ended Sunday, according to data compiled by SoundScan.

That’s about a half-million short of the group’s record-breaking sales week with its prior LP “No Strings Attached,” which bowed in March 2000 and has sold 10.6 million copies nationwide to date. It’s more than enough, however, to top 2001’s second biggest bow, the Dave Matthews Band’s “Everyday” (RCA).

The debut of “Celebrity” knocked nascent pop superstar Alica Keys into a distant second place, with sales about 1.7 million short of the leader. Still, the numbers for Keys’ J Records debut “Songs in A Minor” held strong, falling just 10% from the previous week and pushing the artist into platinum territory after five weeks on the chart.

The sleeper-hit award of the week went to Neil Diamond, whose latest release “Three-Chord Opera” (Columbia) opened in 15th place. The legendary singer-songwriter got a sizable boost from a recent appearance on A&E’s “Live by Request,” which turned out to be the highest-rated episode of the cabler’s live music show in history.

Also making a strong debuts were “Violator Vol. 2 — The Album” (Loud/Sony), a hip-hop compilation from vet producer Chris Lighty, which bowed at No. 10, and quirky alt-rock act Cake, whose sophomore effort “Comfort Eagle” (Columbia), landed in the 13th spot.

Actress-pop star Jennifer Lopez rebounded into the top 20 with her most recent release, “J.Lo” (Epic), which shot up 49 places and tripled its sales following the release of the new single “I’m Real,” as well as an appearance on the live concert series of NBC’s “Today.”

‘N Sync’s “Strings” also got a bump this week from the buzz surrounding “Celebrity”: The older album logged a sales gain of nearly 12%, climbing the ranks from 110 to 95.

‘N Sync could see some viable competition for the top spot next week from the seventh installment of Virgin’s wildly popular “Now That’s What I Call Music” compilation series. Album’s predecessor, “Now 6” (Sony), has sold more than 2.7 million copies and remains at No. 25.

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