It's fitting that the best selling artist of 2002 rode out the year by returning to the top of the Billboard 200 albums chart.
The Eminem-spiked "8 Mile" soundtrack returns to #1 after selling more than 312,000 copies last week, ousting Shania Twain's Up! from the slot it held since its November 19 release. Twain's five-week run tied Eminem's The Eminem Show for longest streak at #1 this year. The country-pop star's follow up to 1997's Come on Over drops to #2, having sold more than 263,000 copies last week, according to SoundScan figures released Thursday (December 2).
Little changed in the chart positions of the top 20 LPs, though sales were universally down from the previous week. Avril Lavigne's Let Go steps up a spot to #3 (262,000); the Dixie Chicks' Home takes a step back to #4 (259,000); Jennifer Lopez's This Is Me ... Then holds at #5 (233,000); Justin Timberlake's Justified skips ahead two places to #6 (222,000); Norah Jones' heralded Come Away With Me takes four steps forward to #7 (217,000); Christina Aguilera's Stripped moves up two to #8 (207,000); and Tim McGraw & the Dancehall Doctors slips three to #9 (195,000)
The only album in the top 10 yet to sell over a million copies is also the one that made the most headway. Aaliyah's I Care 4 U moves from #17 to #10, having sold more than 187,000 copies. In three weeks, the LP has sold more than 689,000 copies.
Another posthumous release, Tupac's Better Dayz, the fifth album released since the rapper died in 1996, moves up eight to #15.
Further down, Good Charlotte's The Young & the Hopeless continues its gradual ascension. The pop-punk quintet's second album has climbed from #40 to #36 to #27 over the past three weeks, selling more than 814,000 copies since its October 1 release. The group's 2000 self-titled debut, by comparison, sold just over half that amount.
Among the few albums seeing a sales increase last week, Sum 41's Does This Look Infected? (#46) enjoyed a 3,500 bump, and Baby a.k.a. the #1 Stunna's Birdman rises 28 spots after selling 6,000 more copies than the week before. Other gainers include Queens of the Stone Age's Songs For the Deaf (#60), Busta Rhymes' It Ain't Safe No More (#69), Mudvayne's The End of All Things to Come (#80), Sean Paul's Dutty Rock (#94) and Simple Plan's No Pads, No Helmet ... Just Balls (#98).
Sixteen albums made a return to the top 200 thanks to increased holiday spending. Albums that were either bought as gifts or as a result of spending checks and gift certificates include Seether's Disclaimer (#147), the Vines' Highly Evolved (#151), Trick Daddy's Thug Holiday (#157), Trina's Diamond Princess (#158), Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's Thug World Order (#160), the Donnas' Spend the Night (#162), the "Drumline" soundtrack (#164) and 50 Cent's Guess Who's Back? (#165).
Reports of slumping CD sales are ubiquitous this time of year, and if there was a need for any more proof, consider that albums comprising the top 200 for the last week of 2001 collectively sold more than 223.3 million copies. Compare that with last week's top 200 totals of 187.2 million and something is most certainly awry.