Oasis, U2 Continue Free Fall On Charts

While Mariah Carey and country crooner LeAnn Rimes rise to the top.

As two of America's most popular female crooners took top honors on

Billboard's album chart this week, both rock and electronica bands

took it on the chin with significant overall drops in rank.

Capturing the crown at #1 was R&B diva Mariah Carey, unseating teen country sensation LeAnn Rimes, who fell to #2. Together, the women sold nearly half a

million records this week, while rock acts such as Oasis and U2 dropped at least 10 notches and electronica bands (save the Prodigy) nearly became mere blips on the industry screen.

Hot on the heels of her hit single "Honey," Carey's Butterfly sold

236,000 copies its debut week, according to SoundScan, landing it

in the pole position. The album represents a mark of independence for the

seven-octave superstar: soon she will divorce Sony Music Entertainment president Tommy Mottola, who personally groomed Carey for success.

Carey, who has long had a hand in writing or producing her own work, penned the lyrics for 11 of the 12 songs on Butterfly. This time out, she turned to the highly in demand Sean "Puffy" Combs, who himself has taken the top spot three times in the past few months, for production help on two tracks. Also lending a hand are hip-hoppers Mase and the Lox, as well as two members of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.

The week proved a loss on three fronts for Rimes, though no one's shedding

any tears for the country songstress. Even as Butterfly bumped

Rime's You Light Up My Life -- Inspirational Songs (her second album

of cover songs in a single year), down to the runner-up spot, it still sold

205,000 copies. Meanwhile, Rime's two other charting albums also fell a few

spots, as Blue dropped to #38 from #33, and Unchained Melody

slipped to #85 from #60.

In contrast, U2 had no album in the Top 200 this week, as Pop dropped off the chart for the first time since its release on March 4 on one week sales of just 4,400 copies And while Oasis' Be Here Now managed to remain in the top 30, at #27, the charting marked a 10 notch drop for the album that has set sales records on the other side of the Atlantic. In the past four weeks, American fans of the Gallagher boys have bought 317,000 copies of Be Here Now -- fewer than were sold in Britain on its first day of release. Both U2 and Oasis may experience a resurgence in U.S. sales, however, when the bands return to the States for concerts this fall.

Meanwhile, electronica innovators Prodigy continue to do relatively well, though The Fat Of The Land just sneaked into the top 20 at #19. Sales of 53,000 copies last week brought the radical dance album to a total of more than 1.1

million units moved since July. The Prodigy's electronica brethren,

however, have not fared nearly as well. American hopefuls Crystal

Method dropped six spots to #103, while the Sneaker Pimps fell two rungs to

#131. The Chemical Brothers' Dig Your Own Hole, which debuted

admirably at #14 in April has fallen to #162.

Aside from Carey's Butterfly, other debuts of note this week

included Busta Rhymes' When Disaster Strikes at #3, Brooks & Dunn's

Greatest Hits Collection, #7, and Jars of Clay's Much Afraid

at #8. Expect next week's chart to include the Rolling Stones' Bridges

to Babylon, though where it will land is anyone's guess.

Completing this week's top 10 are: Master P (#4), Puff Daddy (#5),

Fleetwood Mac (#6), Jewel (#9) and Trisha Yearwood (#10). [Wed., Sept. 24, 1997, 5:30 p.m. PDT]