Chris Brown And Carrie Underwood Get Close, But Now Reclaims #1

Brown edges out Underwood for #2 by fewer than 200 copies.

The self-titled debut from Chris Brown, one of R&B’s freshest — and, at 16, also one of its youngest — faces, was cruising along on a fast track to Billboard‘s checkered flag. With the Scott Storch-helmed, turbo-charged single “Run It!” fueling Brown’s ride, industry insiders were predicting a chart-topping entry into the proverbial winner’s circle. But coming down the final stretch, Brown’s run lost some steam, clearing a path to the finish line for the latest installment in the formidable compilation series known as Now That’s What I Call Music!

The Now 20 collection, featuring track contributions from Missy Elliott, Pussycat Dolls, Ciara, Destiny’s Child, Kelly Clarkson, Fall Out Boy, Franz Ferdinand and others, edged out Brown by less than 4,000 copies, to reclaim Billboard‘s #1 after debuting on top five weeks ago. More than 154,000 copies of Brown’s inaugural LP were scanned, bagged, and hauled away from the nation’s record stores, giving the newcomer a strong second-place showing, according to the latest SoundScan numbers.

Brown outsold the third-place finisher, Carrie Underwood, by a mere 172 copies. The “American Idol” champ climbs four spots to #3 with her debut disc, Some Hearts. Country star Kenny Chesney’s The Road and the Radio continues to garner strong retail interest in its fourth week of release, taking the chart’s #4 slot with 137,000-plus copies sold.

A few big-name debuts stormed their way onto Billboard‘s retail registry. Oral Fixation, Vol. 2, the English-language companion piece to Latin pop hottie Shakira’s Fijacion Oral, Vol. 1 opens at #5 with sales nearing 128,000. Fijacion Oral, Vol. 1 which hit stores back in June, fared considerably better, debuting at #4 debut with sales of 157,000 plus. Meanwhile, Switch, the first new album from Aussie rockers INXS in nearly a decade, cracks the top-20 with a #17 finish. The band’s first LP with reality show-procured frontman J.D. Fortune sold close to 75,000 copies during its first week in stores.

The multi-disc CD/DVD set Weekend on the Rocks, a collection of live Dave Matthews Band tunes recorded during four of the group’s most recent gigs at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado, debuts at #37 with nearly 42,000 scans. The newest release from British rockers the Darkness, One Way Ticket To Hell … And Back, checks in at #58, with week-one sales of 26,000 and change.

A number of albums experienced slight sales jumps this week, including the White Stripes’ Get Behind Me Satan. A no-show on the previous week’s chart, the Stripes return this time out thanks to sales of nearly 12,000. That 76 percent retail surge — perhaps due to increased interest in the band’s video for “The Denial Twist,” which features talk-show host Conan O’Brien — is enough to secure the chart’s #146 spot.

And it took some time, but America is finally warming up to English import James Blunt. Before releasing his Back to Bedlam here nine weeks ago, Blunt had already warmed hearts in his homeland. This week, the album jumps from #158 to #76 after moving nearly 20,000 copies, a 69 percent sales increase.

The holiday spirit has inspired thousands of consumers to rush out and grab some Christmas cheer. Nearly every holiday-themed disc on this week’s chart enjoyed a boost in sales. Il Divo’s The Christmas Collection had a 33 percent jump in sales, moving over 76,000 copies to finish at #16. Diana Krall’s Christmas Songs took the #19 spot with sales of 65,000, a 44 percent spike. Sales of spirited collections from Kenny G, the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Anita Baker, Regis Philbin and Martha Stewart were all up, a trend that’s sure to continue through the month.