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‘Bomb’ bow a blast

U2 disc explodes at No. 1; Eminem sales 2 mil

U2 sold 839,000 copies of “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” (Interscope) in its first week, and Eminem’s latest disc crossed the 2 million sold mark last week, but hopes of a significant bounce from last year’s sales appear to be dwindling.

“Bomb,” U2’s sixth No. 1 album, posted the Irish band’s biggest sales week on record, although their biggest hits were recorded before SoundScan’s introduction in 1991. Besides a free outdoor show in New York, Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullens Jr. have been a ubiquitous presence in the last month via ads for Apple Computer’s iPod.

Fellow Interscope artist Eminem sold 471,000 copies in the week ended Sunday, according to Nielsen SoundScan, getting the album to 2.05 million sold in a mere 17 days.

Interscope’s third album in the top 10 was the solo debut from Gwen Stefani, “Love. Angel. Music. Baby,” which sold 309,000 to land at No. 7. Stefani’s album helped get one of last holiday season’s top performers, No Doubt’s “Singles 1992-2003,” back into the top 200; it has now sold more than 2 million copies.

Interscope’s parent, Universal Music Group, had six albums in the top 10. “Shania Twain’s Greatest Hits,” on UMG’s Mercury Nashville, saw a 151,000 unit spike, selling 384,000 to take No. 3 while Toby Keith’s “Greatest Hits Vol. 2,” on U’s DreamWorks Nashville imprint, sold 331,000, an increase of 110,000.

At No. 8 was the J Records debut of “American Idol 3” champion Fantasia, whose “Free Yourself” sold 239,000. Her “AI” comrade Clay Aiken sold 183,000 copies of “Merry Christmas With Love” after opening the week before on sales of 270,000. Ruben Studdard, who bested Aiken in “AI2,” saw his “inspirational” album “I Need an Angel” (J Records) sell 96,000 copies to open at No. 20.

Creed’s “Greatest Hits” (Wind-Up) opened at No. 15 on sales of 158,000. A live album from labelmates Evanescence, “Anywhere but Home,” sold 53,000 to take No. 39.

Jessica Simpson’s “Rejoice: The Christmas Album” (Columbia) rang in with sales of 152,000. Her album “In This Skin” jumped 61 places to No. 64, selling 31,000.

The three-CD Nirvana boxed set “With the Lights Out” (Geffen), which many big box retailers were selling at or below cost, debuted at No. 19, selling 106,000. It’s the biggest sales week for a boxed set in six years.

Alison Krauss and Union Station’s “Lonely Runs Both Ways” (Rounder) opened at No. 29 on sales of 70,000; Kenny G’s “At Last … The Duets Album” (Arista) floated to No. 40, selling 49,000; Cam’ron’s rap act the Diplomats landed at No. 46 as “Diplomatic Immunity 2” (Koch) sold 47,000; and “Blue Collar Comedy Tour Rides Again” hit No. 50 with sales of 41,000.

Robert Downey Jr.’s debut, “The Futurist” (Sony Classical), sold 16,000 copies in its first week. Sony Classical’s “Phantom of the Opera” soundtrack debuted at 125, selling about 500 copies fewer than the Downey disc.

A Thanksgiving eve NBC concert special drove Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” (Curb) up to No. 13, selling 180,000 copies. A nearly 200% spike from the week before made it the week’s biggest gainer.

Overall U.S. album sales were up 27% over the previous week at 19.5 million units but down about 5% from the same week last year. Sales for 2004 are beating those of last year by about 2.9%. This week saw 19 albums post sales of more than 100,000 vs. last year’s 21; to get in the top 50 required sales of 40,000 as opposed to 49,000 in 2003. This year and last saw 37 albums in the top 50 post sales increases for the week.

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