Britney Moans Her Way To The Top Of The Albums Chart

Dropping to a distant second place is G-Unit's Beg for Mercy.

The most adult Britney Spears album to date, In the Zone, arrived with an ecstatic moan to nab the top spot on the latest Billboard albums chart, selling more than 609,000 copies in its first week, according to SoundScan figures released Wednesday (November 26).

On 2001's Britney, Spears proclaimed "I'm not a girl, not yet a woman." Now she's all woman, and her rite of passage was a very public event. Long before its release, the tastefully risqué pop star sucked face with Madonna (see "Madonna Smooches With Britney And Christina; Justin, Coldplay Win Big At VMAs"), discovered low-cut pelvis-revealing pants and posed almost naked for various magazines, all of which whet people's appetites enough to keep her in the public eye.

In the Zone is the fourth-strongest debut of the year, behind "American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken's Measure of a Man, which entered the chart in October selling almost 613,000 units; Linkin Park’s Meteora, which came in at #1 in April with more than 810,000 copies sold; and 50 Cent, who debuted in February with 872,000 in sales. Britney's first-week figures are more than respectable, but the numbers might be perceived as disappointing compared to her last two releases, 2000's Oops! ... I Did It Again, which sold a whopping 1,319,000 copies its first week, and 2001's Britney, which moved almost 746,000 units.

Placing a distant second behind Britney is G-Unit's Beg for Mercy, which climbs one slot after selling more than 327,000 copies in its second week. That gives the Unit a strong two-week total of around 704,000, just behind Jay-Z's The Black Album, which has sold more than 750,000 copies and drops from #1 to #4 on second-week sales of just over 288,000.

Sandwiched between G-Unit and Jay-Z is poppy punk group Blink-182, whose untitled fifth album sold more than 313,000 copies in its first week. The Beatles nab #5 with Let It Be ... Naked, which debuts with over 280,000 in sales. The disc is a stripped-down version of the band's final album, Let It Be, which came out in 1970.

The #6 slot goes to Josh Groban's Closer (196,000), while Tupac's posthumous Resurrection drops five in its second week to #7 (180,000) and Now That's What I Call Music! 14 takes #8 (174,000). The top 10 is rounded out by Toby Keith's Shock'n Y'all (164,000) and Outkast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (145,000).

After just three days on the shelf, Korn's sixth album, Take a Look in the Mirror, sold 96,000 units to land at #19. The album's release date was pushed forward four days after it leaked online (see "Korn Releasing Take a Look in the Mirror Due To Leak").

It was a big week for holiday-season best-of collections and concert albums, nine of which entered in the top 50. The strongest was Sheryl Crow's The Very Best of Sheryl Crow at #12 (138,000). Sales of Michael Jackson's Number Ones, which hit shelves as his latest child-molestation allegations made headlines (see "Michael Jackson Wanted On Multiple Counts Of Child Molestation"), were likely damaged by the bad press. The record sold just over 120,000 copies to land at #13. The Dave Matthews Band's Central Park Concert takes #14 (111,000); Alan Jackson's Vol. II — Greatest Hits is #16 (101,000); Red Hot Chili Peppers' Greatest Hits earns a #21 spot (92,000); and Linkin Park's Live in Texas CD/DVD package lands at #23 (90,000).

Several Christmas albums saw healthy gains. "American Idol"'s Great Holiday Classics jumped 97 percent to land at #45, Harry Connick Jr.'s Harry for the Holidays springboarded 54 percent to take #30, and That's What I Call Christmas' Signature Collection rose 47 percent to nab the #31 slot.

A few albums took a significant second-week sales plummet, including Tupac, whose Resurrection debuted high but dropped 58 percent last second week. It was almost as dramatic as sales of Kid Rock's disc, which suffered a 50 percent decline to land at #20. Pink's Try This sank 51 percent to take #26.