Ludacris Takes Out Timberlake, Lands Third #1 Debut

Janet Jackson, Weird Al also crack Billboard albums chart top 10.

After two weeks of dominance, could any disc dethrone Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds — an album that surpassed the 1-million-sold mark in just three weeks — to claim Billboard‘s albums-chart crown?

Timberlake, it turns out, is not invincible — just ask Ludacris. For the third time in his career, the rapper will see his latest disc debut at #1 on the Billboard albums chart. Luda’s Release Therapy sold more than 309,000 copies during its initial week of release to earn the top spot. Luda’s last two efforts, 2004′s The Red Light District and 2003′s Chicken-N-Beer, both debuted at #1 — with 322,000 and 430,000 sales, respectively.

While Ludacris’ mission was clear — bump Timberlake from the top of the chart — he didn’t go it alone. Three other new releases played a part in Justin’s slip from #1 to the #5 spot he holds after selling close to 147,000 copies of his FutureSex/LoveSounds its third week in stores. Janet Jackson bows at #2 with 20 Y.O. putting up 296,000 in first-week sales. Tony Bennett’s Duets: An American Classic — featuring collaborations with Bono, Sting and Stevie Wonder, among others — opens at #3 with close to 202,000 scans. Alan Jackson finishes fourth, with first-week sales of Like Red on a Rose nearing 149,000.

According to the latest SoundScan figures, a total of five albums penetrated Billboard‘s top 10 — the fifth is “Weird Al” Yankovic’s Straight Outta Lynwood, which opens at #10 with more than 74,000 sales. In at #6 is John Mayer’s Continuum, with week-three sales reported at 91,000 and change, while Hinder’s Extreme Behavior climbs three spots to #7, selling 77,000 units. Clay Aiken’s A Thousand Different Ways falls six spots to #8 with 74,000 copies sold. And Fergie’s The Dutchess follows at #9, chalking up second-week sales of nearly 74,000.

All told, 28 new releases break into Billboard‘s next top 200. Scissor Sisters’ Ta-Dah opens at #19 with 42,000 scans — not bad considering the album was not stocked in some of the nation’s largest record stores (see “Scissor Sisters’ Ta-Dah Cut Out Of Major U.S. Retail Chains” ). Saosin’s self-titled disc claims #22 with 35,000 in week-one sales, while V, the debut from Vanessa Hudgens — best known for her role as Gabriella Montez in the Disney Channel movie “High School Musical” — bows at #24 with more than 34,000 sold.

At #37 is the Dave Matthews Band, with their four-disc set, Fenway Park, Boston, MA, July 7-8, 2006, selling more than 26,000 units. The self-titled debut from former “American Idol” contestant Mario Vazquez finishes at #80 with 12,000 scans, followed at #95 by Enigma’s A Posteriori with 10,000 sales. Dave Hollister’s The Book of David, Vol. 1: The Transition claims #98 with 10,000 copies sold, while Mewithoutyou’s Brother Sister opens at #116 with 9,000 discs scanned. My Morning Jacket follow at #131 with Okonokos: Double Live Album selling more than 8,000 units, while Rhino Records’ two-disc collection The Very Best of Jerry Garcia opens at #166 with 6,000 scans. And Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood’s Out Louder ranks at #188 with 5,000 sold.

Check out “Think You Know Luda? Meet Chris Bridges” to step into the studio with the chart champ. And see “Justin’s Future Shock” for more on Timberlake’s LoveSounds.