"Britain's Got Talent" runner-up [artist id="3180740"]Susan Boyle[/artist] is exactly the kind of Christmas present the beleaguered music industry has been looking for. In a season that typically provides a plethora of button-bursting mega-releases, Boyle's I Dreamed a Dream will smash sales records on the way to a #1 debut on the Billboard 200 chart next week.
According to figures provided by Nielsen SoundScan, Dream moved just shy of 701,000 albums in its first week on the charts, which gives Boyle the 2009 sales crown in the U.S. over [artist id="502642"]Eminem's[/artist] Relapse, which sold 608,000. Boyle also topped the record for the highest debut by a female solo artist in the SoundScan era, [artist id="1165858"]Ashanti's[/artist] self-titled 2002 debut, which held the previous record at 503,000.
Even with the top 12 albums all selling over 100,000 copies for the best retail weekend of the year to date, Boyle's feat easily outstripped the more modest numbers put up by four other eagerly anticipated potential holiday blockbusters. Despite a headline-grabbing American Music Awards performance and breathless hype, "American Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert's major-label debut, For Your Entertainment, is far behind in the #3 spot, selling 198,000. That was still enough to best the soft first-week sales of "Idol" winner Kris Allen, whose self-titled debut opened last week with the lowest initial numbers of any "Idol" winner at 80,000. Allen's disc shed nearly 60 percent of its business in week two to drop 20 spots to #31 on sales of 33,000.
Right behind Lambert is another album that came with major expectations, Rihanna's Rated R, which hits #4 thanks to 181,000 units moved, giving it a slightly better debut than her previous album, 2007's Good Girl Gone Bad, and her best first week to date. Lady Gaga's stand-alone eight-song disc, The Fame Monster, debuts at #5 on sales of 174,000. Meanwhile, Shakira's eccentric She Wolf lands with a whimper at #15 (89,000).
The rest of the top 10 is bolstered by mostly female-centric stocking-stuffer madness: Andrea Bocelli's My Christmas (#2, 218,000), Lady Gaga's The Fame (#6, 151,000, up 429 percent thanks to a reissue), Miley Cyrus' Time of Our Lives (#7, 150,000, up 385 percent), Taylor Swift's Fearless (#8, 125,000, up 48 percent), Carrie Underwood's Play On (#9, 124,000, up 44 percent) and Norah Jones' Fall (#10, 110,000).
A number of previous top 10 residents got downgraded. Last week's #1, John Mayer's Battle Studies, tumbles 12 spots to #13 as sales dipped 68 percent to 92,000. Justin Bieber's My World slips eight spots to #14 (down 34 percent on 91,000 in sales), and 50 Cent shed 59 percent of the first-week business of Before I Self Destruct, which dips 14 spots to #19 on sales of 66,000.
In other chart debuts, Cash Money boss Birdman is perched at #29 with Priceless (36,000) and his signee Jay Sean is not far behind at #33 with All of Nothing (31,000). The good cheer was spread all around, as more than a dozen prominent albums saw major double-digit sales increases over the previous week, including: Owl City's Ocean Eyes (up 63 percent, 46,000), Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3 (up 26 percent, 37,000), Taylor Swift's self-titled debut (up 75 percent, 28,000), Beyoncé's deluxe edition of I Am ... Sasha Fierce (up 75 percent, 26,000), the "Hannah Montana" soundtrack (up 60 percent, 26,000), Pearl Jam's Backspacer (up 164 percent, 25,000) and Whitney Houston's I Look to You (up 54 percent, 18,000).
But a couple of acts got lumps in their Thanksgiving gravy, including rock power trio Them Crooked Vultures, whose self-titled debut lost 65 percent of its debut-week heat, dropping 31 spots to #43 on sales of 24,000, and Leona Lewis, whose Echo falls 32 spots to #45 on sales of 23,000 as sales dipped 66 percent.
Despite a change in chart rules that went into effect the week of Thanksgiving that will now allow albums older than 18 months and without a current single at radio to be included in the top 200 count, there were no significant moves by older titles on the charts.
Look for chart debuts next week for albums by "Idol" fourth-place finisher Allison Iraheta, R. Kelly, Priscilla Renea, the Bravery and Juvenile.