Ah, to be young, cute and totally crushing it on TV and the charts. In a year when holding on for two weeks is rare, the kids of “High School Musical 2” will pull off a rare threepeat (the first of the year) next week. The soundtrack to “HSM 2″ tops the Billboard albums chart again with sales of almost 210,000, according to SoundScan. Though Zac Efron and the crew will likely take a tumble the next go-’round — when Kanye West, 50 Cent and Kenny Chesney duke it out for the top spot — they can still take pride in zooming to 1.1 million sold since the soundtrack debuted August 14.
The hoofin’ high-schoolers held on despite a 43 percent drop in sales from the previous week, which was still enough to easily outpace the surprise #2 debut from Christian soft-rockers Casting Crowns, who crashed the top-three party with 128,000 in sales for their Altar & the Door album, easily besting the #9 debut of their 2005 sophomore effort, Lifesong. The news wasn’t as good for rapper Yung Joc. His sophomore disc, Hustlenomics, lands at #3 on anemic sales of 69,000, selling about half as many copies out of the box as his 2006 debut, New Joc City.
Other newcomers to the top 10 include emo thrashers Atreyu, whose major-label debut on Disney-owned Hollywood Records, Lead Sails Paper Anchors, comes in at #7 on sales of 42,000; and Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, whose Lifeline squeaks in at #9 with 41,000 sold.
The “HSM” gang joins another Disney star who’s been busting the debut-and-drop trend this year: Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus slips just one spot to #4 in its 10th week while blowing past the 1.2 million mark. After nearly a year on the charts, Fergie creeps up a spot to #5 with The Dutchess, just ahead of the “Hairspray” soundtrack, the 25th installment of the Now That’s What I Call Music! series (#7) and the unbreakable Nickelback, who round out the top 10. Last week’s #2 album, Talib Kweli’s Eardrum, has been blown out of the top 10 to #20, as sales plummeted by 60 percent to just more than 23,000. Producer Swizz Beatz also took his lumps, with his solo debut his solo debut, One Man Band Man, freefalling from #7 to #42 on second-week sales of 15,000.
Veteran big-band country singer Lyle Lovett debuts at #18 with his cheekily titled It’s Not Big It’s Large, while Akon sneaks back into the top 50, jumping to #23 from #64 the previous week thanks to the release of an extended edition of Konvicted. The top 100 is blessed with a slew of debuts from Christian rock acts, including Mercy Me, whose Coming Up to Breathe bows at #43; Caedmon’s Call at #54 with Over Dressed; and worship girl group Point of Grace, whose How You Live is at #56 on sales of 11,800.
The latest from toke-happy rap-rockers the Kottonmouth Kings, Cloud Nine, floats in at #44 on sales just under 14,000, while indie rapper Aesop Rock debuts at #50 with None Shall Pass, selling just a few copies less than hyped Sri Lankan critics’ darling M.I.A., whose second album, Kala, nosedives more than 30 spots in its second week to #49 on sales of slightly more than 13,000.
Also debuting this week is the latest from long-running German metal act the Scorpions — with an assist from Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan — Humanity Hour 1, which comes in at #63 on sales of 10,000. Bubble-inhabiting band Cartel takes one of the biggest drops in their second week on the charts, when their self-titled album drops 50 spots to #70 on sales of less than 10,000, after debuting at #20 with nearly 30,000 the week before. Other notable debuts include the latest from veteran R&B singer Ledisi, whose Lost & Found comes in at #78 on sales of 8,900; and Arizona emo act Scary Kids Scaring Kids, who land at #80 on sales of 8,600.
Finally, a Wal-Mart-only Spanish-language CD/DVD EP from Beyoncé, Irreemplazable, quietly slips in at #105 after selling more than 6,000 copies. And rapper Lil’ Mo makes hardly a sound at #112, while moving 6,000 copies of Pain & Paper.
Next week is shaping up to be the blockbuster battle of the year, as the mega-hyped showdown between Kanye and 50 finally goes down more than two weeks after both their albums leaked online and a month after their mutual, repeated boasts of total domination became daily headlines.