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Taylor Swift returns to top of charts

Country-pop thrush's chart duel with Susan Boyle continues

The victory belongs to the Swift — Taylor, that is — as the country-pop vocalist won a yuletide faceoff with Susan Boyle and retook the No. 1 spot on the U.S. album chart.

Swift’s “Speak Now” (Big Machine) rose one slot and returned to the pinnacle with a 259,000-unit sales week, according to Nielsen SoundScan data for the week ended Sunday. Title notched a sales gain of 29%.

Swift’s collection — which last occupied the top slot in early November — has rolled up sales of 2.6 million in just eight weeks. Album now ranks third behind Eminem’s “Recovery” (3.2 million) and Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” (3 million) among the bestselling releases of 2010.

Despite a sales bump of 5%, the beloved “Britain’s Got Talent” luminary Boyle’s “The Gift” (Columbia) dropped one notch behind a 254,000-unit week. Her seasonal opus held the chart pinnacle the past two weeks.

Michael Jackson’s “Michael” (Epic) debuted at No. 3 with a 228,000-unit start. Amid heavy competition and widespread questions about the authenticity of some tracks, the late entertainer’s first posthumous compilation of unreleased material couldn’t match the No. 1 debut of the film companion set “This Is It” in November 2009.

Two Columbia holiday packages with long legs completed the top five: Jackie Evancho’s “O Holy Night” climbed one pole to No. 4 with sales of 191,000 (up 28%), while the “Glee” cast’s “The Music: The Christmas Album” fell a rung to No. 4, shifting 158,000 (off 18%, the only title in the top 10 to lose ground).

Two seasoned R&B and rap pros arrived in the lower half of the top 10 last week. R. Kelly’s “Love Letter” (Jive) bowed at No. 6, moving 154,000 in its first stanza.

Diddy-Dirty Money — the latest moniker for Sean “Puffy/P. Diddy/Diddy” Combs — took No. 7 with a first-week tally of 101,000 for “Last Train to Paris” (Bad Boy).

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