Linkin Park Rule The Albums Chart: New LP Has Best First-Week Sales Of The Year

Minutes to Midnight has biggest first week since Jay-Z's Kingdom Come.

Surprise, surprise: Linkin Park’s third LP, Minutes to Midnight, will open at #1 on next week’s Billboard albums sales chart — an impressive victory that anyone could’ve seen coming down Broadway in a taxi cab.

With close to 623,000 copies sold, Minutes to Midnight not only gives the California outfit the second #1 debut of its career (2003′s Meteora bowed at #1 with 810,500 sold), it also earns the distinction of being 2007′s best-selling first-week performer — surpassing Norah Jones’ Not Too Late, which netted week-one sales of 405,000-plus.

In fact, it’s the biggest debut since Jay-Z’s Kingdom Come moved 680,000 in December; only five other titles have moved more than 600,000 in a week in the past two years.

To say that Linkin Park faced little competition in their campaign for the chart’s #1 position would be a massive understatement (clearly, other record labels saw that same cab coming down Broadway and saved their hits for other weeks). More than 500,000 copies separate the band from the week’s second-place finisher, R&B singer Tank, whose Sex Love & Pain sold 103,000 units to open at #2. Both albums were among the five new releases to crack this week’s top 10. Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky entered at #4 with 87,300 scans, followed by Gretchen Wilson’s One of the Boys at #5 with 73,500. Megadeth’s United Abominations bows at #8, having sold 54,000 copies.

Falling two places to #3 this week is Michael Bublé’s Call Me Irresponsible, which scanned 87,800 units during its third week in stores. Avril Lavigne’s Best Damn Thing slides one place to #6 with 56,200 copies sold, while Ne-Yo’s Because of You fills the #7 slot with 54,700 scans. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s Strength and Loyalty dips seven places to #9, with 52,700 in second-week sales, and rounding out the top 10 is the self-titled debut from “American Idol” season-five finalist Chris Daughtry’s eponymous rock collective, which sold 51,000 units.

In all, there were 16 newcomers to this latest albums chart, including Rufus Wainwright, who closed out the week with sales of 24,000 for his latest, Release the Stars, claiming the #23 spot. Hey Eugene!, the new one from Pink Martini, lands at #30 with 18,900 copies scanned, while the soundtrack to “Shrek the Third,” which features tracks by the Ramones, Led Zeppelin, Fergie and Wolfmother, bows at #44.

Arizona metallers Job for a Cowboy’s Genesis opens at #54 with about 12,700 copies snatched up, and at #77 is the debut solo offering from the Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan, Are You Listening?, with 9,100 scans. Funeral for A Friend’s Tales Don’t Tell Themselves opens at #135, with sales of 5,600, and rapper Mistah F.A.B.’s Da Baydestrian claims the chart’s #177 slot. And finally, coming in at #185 with 4,200-plus copies sold, is Deeper Still, the last album the late Rick James crafted before he died.