Game Knocked Down By Guys From Mississippi

3 Doors Down roar onto albums chart at #1; Brian McKnight debuts at #4.

Next week’s Billboard albums chart is not ruled by a rapper from Compton or topped by a trio of East Bay punks. Nor can a bottle-blonde bad boy from Detroit, a clean-shaven country crooner or even Usher lay claim to #1. No, next week’s chart champs are actually some everydudes from Escatawpa, Mississippi.

It’s 3 Doors Down! Their third album, Seventeen Days, sold more than 231,000 copies in its first week of release to capture #1, according to SoundScan. It’s the group’s first-ever #1 debut, besting their last album, Away From the Sun, which opened at #8 back in 2002 before going on to sell more than 3 million copies in the U.S. Their first album, 2000′s Better Life, bowed at #104, but has sold more than 6 million copies.

Seventeen Days also bumped the Game back down to #2. Compton’s finest sold more than 158,000 copies of The Documentary, but for the second time in a month, he finds himself knocked down. It’s been an up-and-down ride for the Game, who over the past four weeks has been #1, #2, #1 again and now back to #2.

Green Day follow at #3, selling more than 135,000 copies of American Idiot. The album managed to squeeze every last drop out of the pre-Grammy hype (this chart reflects albums sold for the week ending February 13, a.k.a. Grammy night), posting a 20-percent increase in sales from the previous week.

Up next at #4 is R&B crooner Brian McKnight, who scored the week’s second-highest debut. His album Gemini sold more than 103,000 copies in its first week of release, and scored a higher chart position than his previous album, U-Turn, did when it debuted in March, 2003 (though U-Turn did sell more copies: over 108,000). Behind McKnight is the country collection Totally Country Vol. 4, which sold more than 98,000 copies in its first week.

John Legend’s Get Lifted is next at #6, selling more than 95,000 copies and moving past the 500,000-sales mark. Smooth balladeer Michael Bublé sold more than 93,000 copies of his new album, It’s Time, to debut at #7.

Former chart-topper Kenny Chesney falls to #8, selling more than 88,000 copies of his Be as You Are album. With this week’s sales, the album moves past the 500,000-mark in total sales. Tina Turner’s two-disc greatest-hits set, All The Best, slips to #9, but barely — the album sold just a few hundred copies less than Chesney’s.

Green Day weren’t the only ones to benefit from pre-Grammy buzz. Usher — nominated for eight awards — sold more than 86,000 copies of his Confessions album, a 27-percent increase from the previous week, to finish at #10.

A Golden Week

The next chart, which will reflect sales from the week following the Grammy awards (February 14-20), will serve as a good indicator of just how much an artist’s sales can benefit from taking home a Grammy award. And even though ratings for Sunday night’s telecast sunk to their lowest numbers in a decade (an estimated 18.8 million viewers tuned in, a 28-percent drop from last year’s broadcast), expect a big jump in numbers for Ray Charles’ posthumously released duets album, Genius Loves Company. The album, which sits at #15 on the charts, is already heating up, leaping 19 chart positions in the three weeks leading up to the Grammys, and posting a 73-percent boost in sales last week alone — and eight Grammy wins should vault the album well into the chart’s upper reaches. Also look for big boosts for Alicia Keys (currently at #47) who scored four golden gramophones, and Kanye West (currently at #99) who won three awards and became the topic of many a water-cooler discussion after his fiery performance and subsequent acceptance speech at the awards show. Green Day, U2, Norah Jones and John Mayer can also look forward to big weeks.

Going Postal

Some albums take awhile to build sales … a few weeks, maybe a month or two. Then there’s the case of indielectro duo the Postal Service (a side project of Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard and beatmeister Jimmy Tamborello), whose first and only album, Give Up, didn’t even crack the Billboard Top 200 when it debuted two years ago. Now, 104 weeks later, thanks to a slow build of critical and Internet hype, songs appearing in a few TV commercials, and a new single (“We Will Become Silhouettes”), the album sits at #191 on the charts, and sales have finally crept past the 500,000-mark, proving that the Postal Service really does deliver.