In the end it proved to be a "Super Wednesday" for three of the 21 artists who stampeded the album chart this week -- namely country-crooner Garth Brooks, rapper Method Man and singer/songwriter Jewel.
In one of the most competitive weeks on the Billboard 200 albums chart in recent memory, Brooks, Method Man and Jewel proved they had what it takes to pull ahead of some of the biggest names in contemporary music as they took the top three chart positions, respectively.
Of the numerous high-profile artists whose albums hit stores Nov. 17 -- the day dubbed "Super Tuesday" by chart watchers due to the onslaught of artists releasing new albums -- the three came out with combined sales totaling nearly 2 million.
The week's #1 album, Brooks' Double Live, alone set a new single-week record with sales of 1,085,373.
Aside from Brooks, Method Man and Jewel, the day also brought new material from pop singer Mariah Carey, R&B diva Whitney Houston, rappers Ice Cube and Geto Boys, alt-rockers the Offspring and R&B artist Seal, each of whom sold respectably.
Still, thanks to a huge promotional push and six different sets of collector's-edition packaging, Brooks' two-CD set easily sailed by the competition and into the top slot, according to SoundScan, the company that tracks music sales.
In selling more than 1 million albums, Brooks surpassed sales of Vs. from grunge-rockers Pearl Jam, which moved 950,378 copies during its first week of release in 1993. SoundScan has been tracking sales since 1991.
Brooks also takes 1998's best one-week total, which had been held by punk-rappers the Beastie Boys, when their Hello Nasty moved 681,570 copies during its first week of sales in July.
Coming in at #2 was rapper Method Man's highly anticipated Tical 2000: Judgement Day.
The second solo album from the Wu-Tang Clan rapper, which includes the songs "Judgement Day" (RealAudio excerpt) and the RZA-produced "Perfect World" (RealAudio excerpt), had been delayed numerous times on its way to store shelves, but sales of 410,871 units in its first week suggest that people were willing to wait.
"Tical 2000 is much better than Tical." Method Man fan Walter Houston, 18, wrote in an e-mail. "It seemed like the album was never coming out because it got pushed back so much. If Meth was working on it so hard, it sure shows on the record. It hasn't left my CD player since I bought it on Tuesday."
Close behind Method Man at #3 was folk singer/songwriter Jewel with Spirit, the follow-up to her successful debut, 1995's Pieces of You. The album, the first single from which is "Hands" (RealAudio excerpt), moved 367,945 copies.
"I still don't feel like I'm some sort of super talent people need to hear," Jewel said during a SonicNet/Yahoo! chat Nov. 16. "I just feel like, you know, if I keep working hard, hopefully I'll be here in 20 years. I'm just getting my skills down."
At #4, ironically, was #1s, a hits collection from pop-star Mariah Carey that sold 211,000 copies, keeping her just ahead of the #5 charting These Are Special Times from fellow pop-diva Celine Dion.
Carey's Columbia labelmates the Offspring saw their Americana open at #6 with 198,000 units sold. That's a considerably better first-week outing than they saw with their 1997 release, Ixnay on the Hombre, which landed at #9 with sales of 78,360. That album's sales may have suffered because it lacked a hit single, but Americana's "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)" already is getting a lot of air time on modern-rock radio and MTV.
Rounding out the six top-10 debuts is gangsta-rap veteran Ice Cube, whose War & Peace Vol. I (The War Disc) came in at #7 after selling 180,000 copies. The album, which like Method Man's was delayed many times, is one of a two-part series. The second LP currently is slated for release next summer.
Falling just short of the top 10 in its debut was R&B diva Whitney Houston's My Love Is Your Love, which nestled into the #13 spot. Several notches behind Houston was fellow R&B singer Seal, whose Human Being bowed at #22; gangsta-rap veterans Geto Boys' Da Good, Da Bad & Da Ugly debuted at #26.
After Geto Boys, the next highest debut is the soundtrack to the film "The Prince of Egypt," which landed at #94. "Prince of Egypt" actually has three soundtracks: the score (the #94 album); an "inspirational" version filled with gospel and R&B songs by such artists as BeBe Winans and dc Talk; and a "Nashville" version packed with religious-themed songs by Wynonna, Alabama and other country artists. The Prince of Egypt-Inspirational came in at #121, while The Prince of Egypt-Nashville landed at #139.
Also making an appearance on the lower half of the chart were ska-rockers Sublime at #107 with Acoustic: Bradley Nowell & Friends, hip-hop DJ Kid Capri at #135 with Soundtrack to the Streets and punk-poppers MxPx at #161 with Let It Happen.
With so many new albums debuting high on the chart, some veterans had to take a tumble.
Popular rock singer/songwriter Alanis Morissette was knocked from #1 to #8, while R&B crooner R. Kelly saw his R slide from #2 to #11, U2's The Best of 1980-1990/The B-Sides went from #5 to #21 and rock-icon Bruce Springsteen's Tracks tumbled from #35 to #98 in its second week of release.
It wasn't all bad news for those who have already logged time on the chart this year.
Touched by an Angel: The Album, which features songs by Shawn Colvin and Celine Dion, rocketed from #105 to #16. Fans of metal-giants Metallica geared up for Tuesday's release of the all-covers compilation Garage Inc. by snatching up enough copies of their previous ReLoad to send the album from #173 to #158.
Also seeing upward chart movement was pop singer/actress Cher, whose electronica-fueled Believe jumped from #139 to #113.
The rest of the top 10: 'N Sync, 'N Sync (#9) and Jay-Z, Vol. 2 ... Hard Knock Life (#10).