Music piracy may be rampant, but during the holiday season, burned CDs just don't cut it as a gift. So consumers lined up at record stores in droves over the past week to purchase the hottest albums for their friends and family.
Alicia Keys will top the Billboard albums chart for the second time in three weeks, moving nearly 370,000 units of her second album, The Diary of Alicia Keys, according to SoundScan figures. That's over 120,000 more copies sold than Ruben Studdard's debut album, Soulful, which drove Keys down to #2 last week. On next week's chart, Studdard will drop to #8 with sales of almost 245,000. Studdard's dip reflected a 41 percent sales decrease from last week's figure of 416,000, making him the only act in the top 25 to fall. By comparison, Studdard's "American Idol" rival, Clay Aiken, saw sales of his Measure of a Man increase 35 percent, with more than 212,000 units sold.
Holiday shoppers purchased top country, pop, R&B and hip-hop records in near-even numbers. Keys eclipsed country crooner Toby Keith in sales by fewer than 400 copies. Keith, who will place at #2 on next week's chart, sold almost 369,500 copies of Shock'n Y'All to jump up two chart positions.
Compilation albums are always popular items for folks who don't habitually buy records, which most likely accounts for why four of the top 10 albums are greatest-hits collections. The top seller once again is Now That's What I Call Music! 14, which sold more than 354,000 and will place at #3. Other popular comps were Sheryl Crow's The Very Best of Sheryl Crow at #7 with more than 266,000 copies sold, No Doubt's The Singles 1992-2003 at #9 with over 235,000 and Rod Stewart's As Time Goes By ... The Great American Songbook Volume II, which sold over 221,000 copies to land at #10.
Even after 13 weeks on the shelf, Outkast's Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below remains a popular stocking stuffer. The home of the ubiquitous "Hey Ya!" saw a 55 percent sales jump to clamber two notches up to #4 (334,000). Josh Groban's Closer will take the #5 slot (almost 318,000) and Hilary Duff will nab #6 with Metamorphosis (over 274,000).
All of the top five acts had sales over 300,000 and all of the 13 highest charters sold more than 200,000. As much money as that will generate for Christmas bonuses, same-week sales are down from last year, when the top three artists sold over 400,000 and the highest 17 moved more than 200,000.
Rock bands will continue to dip on next week's chart. The only rock records from this year to make the top 20 are Blink-182, whose untitled LP makes it to #16 (155,000); Evanescence, whose Fallen reaches #19 (148,000); and Nickelback's The Long Road, which climbs eight notches to #20 (142,000).
As a year draws to a close, there are typically few chart debuts. The exceptions this week are mellow R&B singer Joe, whose And Then ... will enter at #26 (122,000); Jay-Z protégé Memphis Bleek, whose third disc, M.A.D.E., will debut at #35 (101,000); and Wu-Tanger Raekwon, whose The Lex Diamond Story will check in at #102 (44,000).