Despite spending the majority of 2004 baiting everyone from Michael Jackson to George W. Bush, it looks like Eminem still found a way to make it onto Santa's "nice" list.
His Encore album benefited the most from the Christmas-week sales surge, moving more than 429,000 copies to land the #1 spot on next week's Billboard albums chart, according to SoundScan. It's the third time in the past six weeks that Em has topped the chart, and thanks to all those frantic last-minute shoppers, sales of Encore have now moved past the 3 million mark.
Also benefiting from the holiday spend-a-thon was Now 17, which sold more than 356,000 copies to hold steady at #2 for a second week, proving once and for all that if you don't know what to buy your kid sister, a compilation of radio hits will do just fine. Or you could get her some socks ... kids love socks.
The sales gap between the #3 and #4 albums is tighter than Ebenezer Scrooge's wallet, as U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb edges out Destiny's Child's Destiny Fulfilled by fewer than 1,000 copies (350,000 to 349,000). Bomb has proven to be anything but, having now sold more than 2 million copies. And Fulfilled continues to work its way up the chart (after a #19 debut back in November), posting an impressive 30 percent sales increase.
Shania Twain's Greatest Hits moves up one spot to #5, selling more than 346,000 copies, while 2004's just-crowned champ, Usher (see "Usher's Confessions The Most Shipped Album Of 2004"), jumps three to #6, selling more than 315,000 copies of the aforementioned Confessions.
The top 10 is rounded-out by permanent resident Toby Keith, whose Greatest Hits 2 sold more than 282,000 copies to land at #7; the dynamic duo of Jay-Z and Linkin Park, who sold more than 282,000 copies of Collision Course to check in at #8; Green Day's American Idiot at #9 (also with sales of more than 282,000 copies); and Ludacris' Red Light District, which sold more than 258,000 copies.
Loyal to the Game, the album that scored the late Tupac Shakur his third posthumous #1 a week ago, was one of the few albums to suffer the Christmas blues. Sales of Game dropped by 33 percent — from more than 330,000 to just over 218,000 — and the album falls to #13.
The most notable debut on the chart is Cash Money Records' Mannie Fresh, whose The Mind of Mannie bows at #59.
The holiday season is — surprise! — the most profitable time of year for the recording industry. Traditionally, the week in which Christmas falls usually features some of the year's most gaudy numbers (the week following Grammy nominations is also a big one). And this year was no exception: Shoppers scooped up more than 14 million albums in the Billboard 200, and every album from #1 all the way down to #38 (Clay Aiken's Merry Christmas With Love) sold more than 100,000 copies. This was up from Christmas week '03, when albums in the top 200 sold more than 12 million copies and every artist from Outkast at #1 to B2K at #34 sold more than 100,000.
How rare was Tupac's Christmas-week sales dip? Just 15 other artists in the entire top 200 saw their sales drop, and only one — poor Xzibit — suffered a bigger slip in sales, percentagewise. Sales of X-to-the-Z's fifth album, Weapons of Mass Destruction, fell by 73 percent, and the LP continues to freefall down the chart, from #43 to #81. Strangely enough, four of the week's biggest losers happened to be Christmas albums, including Aiken's With Love (which saw a 30 percent drop) and Jessica Simpson's Rejoyce: The Christmas Album (an 18 percent sales dip). Ho, ho, ho.