If we're going to take 50 Cent's "I'll retire if Kanye outsells me" rhetoric at face value (which basically no one, including him, is doing), an AARP application should be in the mail.
According to the latest SoundScan totals, and as reported by MTV News Tuesday night (see "Kanye West Pounds 50 Cent In First Week Of Album Showdown"), West's third LP — Graduation, the last in his education-themed trilogy — absolutely clobbered Fiddy's third opus, Curtis, in the battle for #1. The race wasn't even a tight one: Graduation sold nearly 266,000 more copies than Curtis; week-one sales of West's latest were clocked at nearly 957,000, while 50's LP sold a bit more than 691,000 units.
Beyond that, Graduation becomes West's second-straight career #1, following the success of 2005's Late Registration, which opened at #1 with sales reported at 860,000-plus; it is also the best-performing of West's debuts. In addition, the record has earned the distinction of posting the best first-week sales totals of any record in the last two years, going all the way back, ironically, to Late Registration; both it and Curtis outpaced the 623,000 scans Linkin Park's Minutes to Midnight achieved during its first week at retail.
On the other hand, Curtis is 50's first release not to bow at #1 on Billboard's Top 200. It's also the poorest first-week performer of his career, following 872,000 for 2003's Get Rich or Die Tryin' and 1.1 million generated by 2005's The Massacre.
(See what you, the readers, had to say about Kanye West being crowned chart champ over 50 Cent, in You Tell Us.)
Meanwhile, the one artist everyone thought might overshadow the Kanye vs. 50 bout didn't have much of an impact at all. Country crooner Kenny Chesney's 11th studio offering, Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates, sold close to 386,700 copies to finish as the chart's #3 release — which is nothing to sniff at, when you consider Just Who I Am posted the largest sales for a country album since the Dixie Chicks' 2006 LP, Taking the Long Way, which debuted at #1 with 526,000 copies sold.
None of the other 15 new releases debuting on next week's chart managed to enter the top 10, but Justin Timberlake's performance — and multiple wins — at last week's 2007 MTV Video Music Awards helped boost sales of the singer's latest, FutureSex/LoveSounds, by 14 percent, helping the set climb two spots to #10 with nearly 31,000 sold. The soundtrack to the Disney Channel flick "High School Musical 2" drops three places to #4, selling more than 133,000 units, while Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus follows at #5, with 42,300 scans. Fergie's The Dutchess finishes the week at #6 on 40,500 copies, while Nickelback's All the Right Reasons claims the #7 slot with 35,000 sold. Colbie Caillat's Coco enters the top 10 at #8, selling 31,700 copies, and at #9, with 31,600 in sales, is the 25th installment in the Now That's What I Call Music! compilation series.
Timberlake wasn't the only artist to benefit from VMA exposure. The show's maestro, Timbaland, watched sales of his Timbaland Presents Shock Value shoot up 43 percent to close out the week with 27,300-plus scans — which lands him at #13 on next week's chart. Sales of Rihanna's Good Girl Gone Bad improved by 28 percent, placing her at #18 with 26,300 copies sold. Fall Out Boy's Infinity on High takes the #62 spot, as sales of the disc jumped by 14 percent, and sales of "Best New Artist" honorees Gym Class Heroes' disc, As Cruel as School Children, spiked an impressive 33 percent, to secure a #117 finish with 5,000 scans.
After 'Ye, Fif and Kenny, the highest-charting new release debuting on next week's chart occupies the #16 spot: the third addition to the "Grey's Anatomy" soundtrack family. The disc features cuts by Peter Bjorn and John, Robert Randolph, Paolo Nutini, Gomez and John Legend, and sold 26,600 units during its first week on store shelves. Country diva Trisha Yearwood's Greatest Hits follows at #22 with 22,300 sold, while hip-hop collective B5's new one, Don't Talk Just Listen, sold 18,500 units, to finish at #27.
R&B artist Cupid checks in at #57, having sold 10,300 copies of his latest, Time for a Change, while indie rockers Pinback come in at #68, scanning 9,000 units of their latest, Autumn of the Seraphs. The Animal Collective's Strawberry Jam follows at #71, with 8,400 sold, and metallers Iced Earth's Framing Armageddon (Something Wicked Part 1) come in at #78, with 7,800 in total album sales.
Hot Hot Heat's Happiness Ltd. bows at #85 on 7,200 copies, while Ani DiFranco's retrospective Canon claims the chart's #88 opening with 7,000 scans.
One of the week's biggest winners, though, has to be Feist, whose The Reminder surges ahead 51 places to #44, thanks to an increase in sales of 120 percent. The album, which sold 14,000 copies last week, features the song "1234," the track used in the latest iPod Nano commercials.