Jackson sees debut malfunction

Usher remains No. 1 despite sales slide

Sales of Usher’s “Confessions” slid more than 50% in the disc’s second week on SoundScan’s album chart but still topped Janet Jackson’s “Damita Jo” by more than 100,000 units.

La Face disc “Confessions” sold 486,000 copies last week, while Jackson’s latest did 381,000, just missing the projected level of 400,000. Jackson’s last five studio albums have all been No. 1 hits; “Rhythm Nation 1814,” released 15 years ago, is the only other one to not debut in the top slot. Her last disc, 2001’s “All For You,” sold 605,000 copies in its first week.

Promotion for her Virgin disc began with her now-infamous Super Bowl halftime appearance and the rush release of the album’s first single, “Just a Little While.” After shying from public view for a time, Jackson has been making plenty of TV appearances of late to pitch the disc.

The respective perfs of the Usher and Jackson albums reflect the mixed results seen over the last several years in using a single to drive album sales. Usher’s “Yeah!,” featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris, continues to dominate sales and airplay charts, and his second single, “Burn,” may come close to duplicating its predecessor’s success. Jackson, on the other hand, is getting little boost from her singles; she’s nowhere to be found on any pop radio playlist, and her second single, “I Want You,” is receiving only middling airplay at urban stations.

Jackson led a rush of five new discs into the top 10. Lil Flip’s third album, “U Gotta Feel Me” (Columbia), posted career-best numbers for the rapper, selling 198,000 to take No. 4. Fellow Southern rapper J-Kwon saw his So So Def debut “Hood Hop” sell 125,000.

Positioned between the two hip-hoppers were two blues albums, Aerosmith’s “Honkin’ on Bobo” (Columbia) and Eric Clapton’s “Me & Mr. Johnson” (Reprise). Aerosmith’s album of covers, including Bo Diddley’s “Road Runner” and Willie Dixon’s “I’m Ready,” sold 160,000 copies and landed at No. 5.

Clapton, who once pledged to include a Robert Johnson song on all of his albums, saw his all-Johnson collection debut at No. 6 on sales of 128,000. Ten years ago, Clapton topped the pop charts with his blues collection “From the Cradle.”

Rash of successful new releases is keeping 2004’s numbers way ahead of 2003’s. Compared to last year’s comparable week, top 25 sales for the week ended Sunday were up 36% and top 200 sales were up about 29%.

DreamWorks country singer Tracy Lawrence saw his “Strong” sell 54,000 and debut at No. 17; DJ Kayslay’s sophomore album “Streetsweeper, Vol. 2: The Pain From the Game” (Columbia) sold 36,000 to take No. 27.

The sixth volume of Columbia’s “Bob Dylan Bootleg Series,” a two-CD concert recording from 1964, also sold 36,000. It is the highest-charting album in the series, which began in 1991 with a three-disc, 30-year overview. Epic’s Shakira was the other debut in the top 50 as her “Live and Off the Records” CD-DVD set debuted at No. 45 on sales of 27,000; it’s the top seller among musicvideos.

Warners’ soundtrack album for TV show “The OC” sold 23,000 copies to debut at No. 52.

Jackson and Usher should be duking it out this week and next with no other top-of-the-chart contenders being released.

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