Radiohead’s In Rainbows Topples Blige From Billboard‘s #1

Music industry gets off to sluggish sales start in 2008, with just three new releases making the top 200.

The lights are all coming down, those plastic trees are being dismantled and packed away in cardboard boxes, and the eggnog has turned — all signs that another Christmas is behind us. Of course, some of us are still in denial, slurping down thick, chunky eggnog despite the fact that it’s a new year — but take one look at the first Billboard top 200 of 2008, and there’s no denying Christmas is in the can.

On next week’s albums sales chart, all but 16 of the albums comprising the top 200 suffered severe sales drops — and three of those 16 are new releases. According to the latest SoundScan figures, overall sales for the nation’s top 200 records sunk by about 2 million when compared to those put up during the previous week. But the most convincing piece of evidence supporting the argument that Christmas is done can be found at #58 on next week’s chart: That’s where you’ll find Josh Groban‘s Noël, one of the holiday season’s — and the year’s — best-selling releases.

After dominating the Billboard chart for five consecutive weeks , Groban’s latest slipped to #3 on last week’s chart. Now, thanks to a 92 percent drop in retail interest, Groban’s set falls 55 positions, selling 14,400 copies. (Which obviously begs another question: Who buys Christmas music the week after Christmas?)

Perhaps the more important development on this week’s chart, though, is who claimed #1. With just 122,300 copies snatched up, Radiohead‘s In Rainbows surges ahead 155 spots to the chart’s peak. While considered an official #1 debut (the album first landed in retail outlets last week), the band’s latest album prematurely opened at #156 on the previous week’s chart, courtesy of some obvious street-date violations. In Rainbows had been available for several weeks this fall, as a “name your own price” download , available exclusively at the band’s Web site. Official sales figures from Radiohead’s daring experiment have not been released.

This marks only the second time in Radiohead’s imposing career that they’ve seen one of their albums hit #1. In 2000, Kid A sold more than 207,000 copies, to enter at #1, but 2001′s Amnesiac and 2003′s Hail to the Thief debuted at #2 (with 231,500 scans) and #3 (with 300,000), respectively.

Holding strong at #2 this week is Alicia KeysAs I Am, which sold 112,400 copies, while last week’s #1, Mary J. Blige‘s Growing Pains, slides to #3 with 89,000 scans. The 26th volume in the Now That’s What I Call Music! compilation series stays put at #4 with 54,000 sold, while sales of Taylor Swift‘s self-titled debut were clocked at nearly 47,000, putting her at #5 on next week’s chart. Chris Brown‘s Exclusive follows at #6 with 40,800 sold, while Garth BrooksUltimate Hits holds at #7 with 38,500 scans.

The soundtrack to “Juno,” with contributions from Sonic Youth, Kimya Dawson, the Kinks and Belle and Sebastian, makes its first appearance on the chart at #8, despite being commercially available for weeks now. The disc sold 38,000 units, outperforming Colbie Caillat‘s Coco, which occupies the #9 slot, by not even 300 copies. Rounding things out at #10 is the EaglesLong Road Out of Eden, selling another 35,700 copies.

The other two newcomers to this week’s chart sit at #54 and #151. The two-disc Grammys 50th Anniversary Collection, featuring tracks from the likes of Frank Sinatra, the Police, Sade, Beck and John Mayer, sold 15,600 copies, while the Starbucks sampler Across the Pond, with tracks from Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone, James Blunt and others, sold 5,600 units.