Simon Cowell-Mentored Leona Lewis Tops Billboard Chart With Spirit

Jordin Sparks' LP gets substantial sales boost following 'American Idol' appearance.

For Leona Lewis, 2008 has been a year of notable firsts.

The English pop star, who was discovered by “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell, has been breaking sales and chart records since being imported to the U.S. In March, her track “Bleeding Love” became the first single by an English female vocalist to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart since Kim Wilde‘s cover of the Supremes‘ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” did it back in 1987. Now she’s earned the distinction of becoming the U.K.’s first female artist to open at #1 with her inaugural release.

Spirit, which was produced by Cowell and industry fat cat Clive Davis, is set to bow at #1 on next week’s Billboard albums chart with a whopping 205,000 copies sold, according to the latest SoundScan data. It marks the biggest female-artist debut-album opening since Carrie Underwood‘s 2005 LP, Some Hearts, which generated first-week scans of 314,000-plus.

Lewis’ Spirit was a certifiable lock for the chart’s peak position, as she faced little — make that zero — competition in her pursuit of sales greatness. Next week’s #2 album, George Strait‘s Troubadour, sold just 59,000 units, while country artist James Otto‘s Sunset Man opens at #3, selling only 57,600 copies. The 27th addition to the Now That’s What I Call Music! compilation series follows at #4 with 47,000 sold, while R.E.M.‘s Accelerate drops three spots to #5, selling a reported 46,300. Right behind the pride of Athens, Georgia, comes the soundtrack to “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” which sold another 39,700 copies for a sixth-place finish.

Lewis’ and Otto’s LPs were among 16 newcomers impacting next week’s Top 200. Ray J‘s latest, All I Feel, enters the chart at #7, scanning upwards of 38,000 units, and at #9, clocking sales of 33,600, it’s P.O.D.‘s new one, When Angels and Serpents Dance. Wedged between Ray J and P.O.D., we find Rick RossTrilla, which put up week-five sales of 34,200, and rounding things out at #10 with 27,600 sold, it’s Danity Kane‘s Welcome to the Dollhouse.

Other new releases entering next week’s chart include Nine Inch NailsGhosts I–IV, which sold 25,800 copies to claim the #14 slot, and opening at #29 with 18,000 copies snatched up, it’s Marié Digby‘s Unfold. Ashes Divide‘s Keep Telling Myself It’s Alright follows at #36, scanning 15,800 copies, while Nick Cave & the Bad SeedsDig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! bows at #64 with 10,000 copies sold. The Breeders return to the chart at #98, selling 7,200 units of their latest, Mountain Battles, while Tapes ‘n TapesWalk It Off sold to the tune of 5,900, which puts them at #116 on the chart.

Following her appearance with Chris Brown last week on “American Idol,” last year’s “Idol” champ, Jordin Sparks, enjoyed a much-needed sales bump. Her self-titled debut experienced a 27 percent increase in retail interest, closing out the week with 24,300 scans; the effort climbs 14 chart positions to #17.