Pretty Ricky Thwart Shins’ Quest For Billboard Glory

Daughtry slips to #3 despite sales boost; Saliva scores solid debut; Robin Thicke reaches the top 10 after 17 weeks.

Had they released their third LP, Wincing the Night Away, just one week earlier, the Shins could have provided their label, Seattle-based Sub Pop, its first-ever #1 debut on Billboard‘s albums sales chart. The disc’s first-week sales of nearly 118,000 would have crushed last week’s chart-topping champ, Daughtry — the self-titled debut from “American Idol” fifth-season finalist Chris Daughtry’s rock group, which sold just 65,000 copies to take #1.

Instead Wincing, which prompted a midnight-sale revival at indie retailers nationwide, hit stores last week — the very same day the Miami-based R&B quartet Pretty Ricky issued their sophomore outing, Late Night Special. The Shins’ disc ended its first week outsold by more than 14,000 copies and earns the chart’s #2 position — an impressive debut, but this is Pretty Ricky’s time to shine.

With 132,000-plus copies sold its first week in stores, Late Night Special earned Pretty Ricky their first career #1, according to the latest SoundScan data. The group’s first LP, 2005′s Bluestars, debuted at #16 with 56,000 scans. Wincing is the Shins’ highest-charting debut by far: 2003′s Chutes Too Narrow opened at #86 with sales of 15,600, and the group’s 2001 debut, Oh, Inverted World didn’t crack the chart.

Meanwhile, Daughtry slides two spots to #3 — although it actually sold 15,000 more copies than it did the previous week, when it hit the chart’s apex. Following at #4 is new release 2007 Grammy Nominees, a collection of 23 tracks from this year’s award contenders, including Gnarls Barkley, John Mayer, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Justin Timberlake and James Blunt. The album sold close to 77,500 copies, topping John Mellencamp’s latest, Freedom’s Road, which bows at #5 with 56,000 scans.

The soundtrack to “Dreamgirls” slips four spots to #6, selling another 55,700 units; the record features musical contributions from the film’s stars Beyoncé Knowles, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy. Akon’s Konvicted follows at #7 with 50,500 copies scanned, while Robin Thicke’s The Evolution of Robin Thicke makes its first appearance in the chart’s top 10, coming in at #8 with 45,000 sales; Thicke, son of “Growing Pains” papa Alan Thicke, appeared last week on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” which presumably helped the 17-week-old LP score a 53 percent sales boost.

The soundtrack to “Jump In!” — the Disney Channel TV movie featuring “High School Musical” star Corbin Bleu — finishes at #9 with 44,000 scans. Rounding out the top 10 is Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds, with sales coming in at just over 39,000.

In all, a whopping 14 new releases enter the latest top 200, including Saliva’s latest, Blood Stained Love Story, which debuts at #19 with 30,600 copies sold. The self-titled debut from the Good, the Bad, and the Queen, the collective featuring Blur’s Damon Albarn, former Clash bassist Paul Simonon, Verve guitarist Simon Tong and ex-Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen, opens at #48 with 14,700 scans, while Of Montreal’s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? claims the chart’s #71 spot with sales of 11,000.

Debuting at #81 with 10,000 scans is Ultra Dance, Vol. 8, a set featuring the remixed work of Christina Aguilera, the Killers, Panic! at the Disco, and Tiësto, followed at #85 by R&B songstress Sunshine Anderson’s Sunshine at Midnight, which sold 9,600 copies. Atreyu’s Best of Atreyu finishes at #102 with 8,100 scans, while Thrice frontman Dustin Kensrue’s solo debut Please Come Home opens at #142 with 5,800 sales And checking in at #150 is Deerhoof’s Friend Opportunity, which racked up week-one sales of close to 5,600.

While it’s the battle for #1 that attracts the most attention each week, there’s another race unfolding on Billboard‘s weekly chart: Nickelback vs. Carrie Underwood, in a fight for the “Best-Selling Album in the Top 200″ title. The two heavyweights have been playing a heated game of tug-of-war these last few months, with the scales tipping in one or the other’s favor from week to week. This time out, Nickelback are the victors, having sold close to 4,792,291 million copies of their latest All the Right Reasons, with Underwood’s Some Hearts moving 4,789,464 units — a mere 3,000 and change making the difference. We’ll have to wait a week to see who comes out on top in the next round.