Guess who's back? As if there were any question of whether Eminem could dominate the charts again after a near four-year absence, the rapper's return-to-form, Relapse, will crush the competition next week to take the #1 spot on the Billboard 200, thanks to the highest first-week bow of the year so far at 608,000.
How big was it? Even with seven other albums making their debuts in the top 10, Slim Shady sold nearly as many albums as the rest of the top 10 combined. According to figures provided by Nielsen SoundScan, last week's #1, Green Day's 21st Century Breakdown, dropped down a spot on sales of 166,000. Breakdown, the "Hannah Montana" soundtrack (#7, 58,000) and Lady Gaga's Fame (#8, 45,000) are the only holdovers from last week.
Among the new entries at the top: Kenny Chesney's Greatest Hits II (#3, 89,000), comedian Dane Cook's Isolated Incident (#4, 61,000), Busta Rhymes' Back On My B.S. (#5, 59,000), Method Man and Redman's Blackout 2 (#7, 57,000), Tori Amos' Abnormally Attracted to Sin (#9, 41,000) and Kate Voegele's A Fine Mess (#10, 37,000).
There was also plenty of debut action just outside the top 10, including a #13 bow for singer/songwriter Mat Kearney with City of Black & White (26,000). Live at Madison Square Garden from the dynamic classic-rock duo of Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton comes in just behind that with 23,000 in sales, and '80s star Lionel Richie seems to have enjoyed an "American Idol" bump that helped his new album, Just Go, land at #24 (19,000).
Speaking of "Idol," runner-up Adam Lambert might have come in second, but he will still manage to break into the charts at #33 with his 12-song Season 8 Favorite Performances iTunes EP (16,000), which includes his covers of "Mad World," "A Change Is Gonna Come," "Whole Lotta Love" and "The Tracks of My Tears." Meanwhile, winner Kris Allen's iTunes EP is a bit further behind at #50 (10,000), with his versions of "Falling Slowly," "Heartless," "What's Going On" and "All She Wants to Do Is Dance."
A second appearance on "Idol" this season also helped last year's winner, David Cook, whose self-titled debut jumps up nearly 30 spots (and more than 110 percent) to #29 on sales of 17,000, while season-two champ Ruben Studdard had a so-so debut for his new one, Love Is (#36, 15,000). The "Idol" bump didn't do wonders for creaky classic popster Rod Stewart, whose appearance on Wednesday night's finale was only good for a #52 debut for the Definitive Rod Stewart collection (10,000), or for comedian Steve Martin, whose debut music album, the bluegrass collection Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo, snuck in at #105 on sales of nearly 5,000 after an appearance on the "Idol" finale.
Ciara's Fantasy Ride is turning into a bit of a spin-out, as her latest drops 24 spots in its third week on the charts, shedding another 40 percent of business from the week before to land at #34 (16,000). The news is no better for rapper Cam'ron, whose Crime Pays plummets 64 percent in its second week, falling from #3 to #35 (15,000).
The charts shouldn't get too much of a shake-up next week: The biggest names on the horizon include long-in-the-tooth shock-rocker Marilyn Manson's latest, as well as albums from Mandy Moore and reggaeton superstars Wisin y Yandel.