When one of the most successful hip-hop artists of the last decade comes out of a self-imposed hiatus, people are going to have expectations.
Kingdom Come, Jay-Z's homecoming LP and one of the year's most anticipated releases, was predicted to top country darlings Rascal Flatts' Me & My Gang as this year's biggest-selling debut, with early sales projections providing a ballpark figure of 850,000 scans during one of the busiest shopping weeks of the year.
But while Kingdom Come's more than 680,000 sales easily score him the #1 spot on Billboard's albums chart, Jay-Z is going to have to settle for third place when it comes to the year's biggest debuts. Kingdom Come doesn't top the nearly 722,000 the Flatts sold during Me & My Gang's first week in stores, nor could it best the 684,000 first-week sales of Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds.
Along with topping every other album this week, Jay's latest album has beaten his personal best. Kingdom Come surpassed sales of 2000's The Dynasty: Roc La Familia — which, at about 558,000, earned the rapper the Billboard albums sales chart's #1 position the week after its release — to earn him his biggest opening-week showing and his seventh career chart-topper.
It was a rather robust week for record retailers, with national sales of the albums that comprise this week's Billboard top 200 reported to be close to 7.6 million — a huge surge from the previous week's 4.5 million-plus. All but 39 of the discs on this latest chart experienced sales boosts, whether slight (such as the 2 percent rise of Gnarls Barkley's St. Elsewhere, which sold close to 11,700 units for the chart's #137 slot) or significant (Switchfoot's Nothing Is Sound jumped 320 percent, returning to the chart at #91 with close to 18,000 copies sold).
New releases didn't do too shabbily either. In all, a total of 24 newcomers invaded Billboard's latest chart, with five cracking the coveted top 10. In at #2, with close to 304,000 scans, is the self-titled debut offering from Daughtry, the band fronted by "American Idol" contestant Chris Daughtry. Now That's What I Call Music! 23 — a collection of hit singles from Fergie, Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson, Nickelback and others — holds #3 with sales of 289,000, while Love, an album commissioned as the soundtrack to a Cirque du Soleil stage show and billed as the first authorized Beatles remix project, opens at #4 with 271,000 units snatched up. Snoop Dogg's latest, Tha Blue Carpet Treatment, debuts at #5 with 264,000 scans.
Following at #6 is Beyoncé's B'Day, selling another 173,000 copies its 12th week in stores. The soundtrack to the Disney Channel original series "Hannah Montana" slides two spots to #7 with 167,000 sold, and Akon's Konvicted drops six spaces to #8, racking up 164,000 in week-two sales.
In at #9 is another new release — Tupac Shakur's latest posthumous offering, Pac's Life, which features contributions from Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, Keyshia Cole, T.I., Ashanti, Young Buck and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, among others. The record sold 159,000 units, to finish just in front of Keith Urban's Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing, which slips to #6 with 157,000 sold.
U2's retrospective collection U218 Singles opens at #12 with 134,000-plus sales, while Latin pop outfit RBD's Celestial debuts at #15 with 117,000 scans. Il Divo's Siempre bows at #17 with 108,000 copies scanned, bagged and carried away from the country's record shops, and coming in at #31 is the latest from Brand New, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, which put up week-one sales topping 60,000. New England metallers Killswitch Engage's As Daylight Dies follows 500 copies behind at #32 with nearly 60,000 scans.
Tom Waits' Orphans claims the chart's #74 slot with opening-week totals of 21,000, while The Gospel According to Patti LaBelle debuts at #86 with more than 18,000 copies sold. Oasis' Stop the Clocks collection bows at #89 with nearly 18,000 scans, followed at #101 by the self-titled debut from Rock Star Supernova, which sold close to 17,000 copies its first week of release. Sufjan Stevens' Presents Songs for Christmas finishes at #122 with 13,000 units scanned and The Legend of Johnny Cash, Vol. 2 claims #145 with sales of 11,000 and change.
P.O.D.'s Greatest Hits: The Atlantic Years opens at #152 with 10,000 copies grabbed up, Kiss Alive! 1975-2000, the new box set from the rock legends, follows at #167 with 9,000 sold. Just making the cut at #199 is the Kottonmouth Kings' Hidden Stash III, selling more than 7,000 units.