Rod Rules, Nelly’s Suit Steps Up, Usher Slips Down Billboard Albums Chart

Big debuts for Jimmy Eat World, Brooks & Dunn; film spurs Ray Charles sales.

While it is certainly notable that veteran rocker Rod Stewart will score his first #1 debut in more than 25 years on next week’s Billboard albums chart (selling more than 240,000 copies of Stardust … The Great American Songbook Vol. III), the real stories are taking place further down the chart.

For starters, there’s Nelly, whose Suit continues to push its way up the chart, rising to #2 with sales of more than 152,000 copies. That’s more than three times the amount sold by its counterpart, Sweat, which falls to #17 with sales of just over 49,000 copies. This week’s count also put Suit over the 1 million mark in just its sixth week of release, according to SoundScan.

George Strait’s countrified reign at the top of the chart comes to an end after two weeks, as his 50 Number Ones album falls to #3, selling more than 141,000 copies. And usually unflappable Usher takes a rare stumble, as his Confessions album drops to #4, with sales of just under 140,000.

Another notable trend is the continued success of all things Ray Charles. Undoubtedly spurred by this Friday’s release of the biopic “Ray,” the late singer’s final album, Genius Loves Company, saw a sales bounce of 61 percent from last week, leaping from #13 to #5 on sales of more than 99,000 copies. The soundtrack to “Ray,” which features 16 of Charles’ biggest hits, also scored an impressive debut at #23.

Even more impressive is the debut of Jimmy Eat World at #6 with Futures, by far their highest-ever bow (their self-titled last album failed to crack the top 200 when it was first released back in 2001). Futures, which sold more that 98,000 copies, builds on the success of Jimmy Eat World, which attained platinum status on the strength of its three hit singles, “Bleed American,” “Sweetness” and “The Middle.”

Country stalwarts Brooks & Dunn follow at #7 with their Greatest Hits Collection II, which sold more than 82,000 copies. Celine Dion lost nearly a quarter of her album sales from last week, as her Miracle album drops to #8, selling just over 80,000 copies. Hilary Duff’s self-titled album is at #9, selling more than 78,000 copies. And Tim McGraw maintains his boot-hold in the top 10, selling more than 71,000 copies of his Live Like You Were Dying.

Other notable debuts on next week’s Billboard 200 include John Mellencamp’s greatest-hits collection Words & Music at #13; the late Elliott Smith’s From a Basement on the Hill at #19; rapper Juvenile’s Greatest Hits at #31; Ruff Ryder Jin’s Rest Is History at #54; feminist rockers Le Tigre’s This Island at #130; and jokey punks Me First and the Gimme Gimmes’ Ruin Jonny’s Bar Mitzvah at #197.

Rod’s Really Rockin’ Retail

Not only did Stewart’s third installment of his Great American Songbook series move nearly a quarter million copies, the veteran singer’s latest bout of popularity has breathed new life into the first two volumes of the covers series.

The week before Stardust … was released, 2002′s It Had to Be You … The Great American Songbook and 2003′s As Time Goes By … The Great American Songbook Volume II both resurfaced in the top 200, at #133 and #108, respectively. Then last week, with three separate albums of Stewart singing standards on the shelves, the first two volumes again took a forward leap. It Had to Be You shot up 50 spots as sales more than doubled, landing at #83, while its sequel took a 42-spot jump to #66 and also enjoyed twice as much traffic at cash registers.

An artist’s new album giving their last one a sales boost isn’t uncommon. Just as home video rentals of movies jump up whenever a sequel is about to hit theaters, the deadline for fans who want to keep current dawns on the eve of the artist’s next album. You can’t very well see Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King without first watching The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.

In the seven weeks preceding the release of Avril Lavigne’s Under My Skin, sales of the 2-year-old Let Go maintained an upward trajectory, moving from #184 to #121. After that, Lavigne’s debut returned to its previous place, out of the top 200. A similar thing happened with Norah Jones. The release of her latest album, February’s Feels Like Home, catapulted her 2002 debut, Come Away With Me back into the top 20, which isn’t an easy feat considering that, at that point, more than 8 million copies had already been sold.

However, the release of a new album could mean the last one has hit its expiration date, as was the case with Hilary Duff. When the teen popper’s second album, Hilary Duff, dropped four weeks ago, her debut, Metamorphosis, plunged 33 spots to #158, the largest drop for Duff all year.

On The Move

With a new single, “Monday Morning Church,” beginning to surface at country radio, Alan Jackson’s What I Do rebounds 13 spots from #49 to #36 for the biggest chart leap of any top 40 album. Duran Duran and Sum 41, conversely, share the dubious honor of moving furthest in the other direction. The ’80s pop vets’ reunion album, Astronaut, dips from #17 to #38, while the Canadian punks’ Chuck falls from #10 to #26.

DVD Does Duff Good

Outside of the top 40, the soundtrack to the Hilary Duff film “A Cinderella Story” jumped 82 spots to #112 just as the home video hit stores.

Game (Not) Over

Game’s chart position at #146 might seem like a disappointment, given that the G-Unit rapper is blessed by the million-dollar Midas touch of 50 Cent on his single “Fresh 83″ and has been a staple of the mixtape circuit for months. But Untold Story, which only sold around 8,000 copies in its first week, was recorded by Bay Area producer JT the Bigga Figga prior to the up-and-comer’s signing with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Records. Game’s new album, The Document, which drops in January, will undoubtedly better reflect his score.