Country's Tim McGraw Beats Back 'Phantom Menace'

Death Row's Chronic 2000 enters at #11, pop singer Robbie Williams at #85.

Aliens battled it out with down-home country singer Tim McGraw on the

Billboard 200 albums chart and, strangely enough, The Force was with

the guy from Nashville.

McGraw's A Place in the Sun debuted at #1, having sold 251,711

copies in the week ending Sunday. That easily outdistanced sales of the

soundtrack to "Star Wars: Episode 1 -- The Phantom Menace," which sold

172,892 copies to enter the chart at #3.

A Place in the Sun is the fifth album from the country superstar, whose father is famed New York Mets relief pitcher Tug McGraw and whose wife is country singer Faith Hill. McGraw's second #1 album, it features the single "Please Remember Me," which is currently #11 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The last country album to debut at #1 was Garth Brooks' Double Live, which sold more than 1 million copies the week it was released in late November.

The Phantom Menace soundtrack features the score from the year's

most anticipated movie, which opens May 19. It includes symphonic pieces

such as "Anakin's Theme" (RealAudio excerpt), named for Anakin Skywalker, the character better known from previous "Star Wars" movies as Darth Vader.

"I wanted some of the innocence of childhood, [but] I also wanted to give a hint of what was to come by threading slight suggestions of the Darth Vader Imperial March into the innocence of the theme," composer John Williams said of "Anakin's Theme" during an online chat on the website TalkCity last week.

"I expect the album to reach #1 when the movie breaks," said Sue Delguidice, sales manager at a Tower Records store in San Francisco, where the soundtrack was the third-best-selling album last week (behind Filipino-American pop group One Voice's Just the Beginning and the rap compilation Suge Knight Represents: Chronic 2000). "It's like with Titanic. That album was #1 here for months."

Hip-hop soul trio TLC held the #2 spot with Fan Mail, a former #1 album.

Suge Knight Represents: Chronic 2000, which compiles music from West Coast hip-hop label Death Row Records, entered the chart at #11 -- failing to match the #1 debuts of earlier Death Row releases by the likes of Snoop Doggy Dogg and Tupac Shakur.

The album contains Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg's popular 1993 singles "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang" and "Dre Day," both from Dr. Dre's album The Chronic. Snoop Dogg, as the artist is now known, said Wednesday (May 12) his work on The Chronic helped legitimize the hip-hop being produced in Los Angeles.

"The West Coast ... was feared," Snoop Dogg said. "But when The Chronic came out, we made them love the West Coast and love us."

Suge Knight, founder of Death Row, is serving a nine-year prison sentence in California and recently was named a suspect in the 1997 slaying of rapper Notorious B.I.G.

Pop singer Robbie Williams, a former member of the British pop band Take That and a huge star in that country, entered the chart at a relatively modest #85 with The Ego Has Landed.

Last week's #1, the rap compilation Ruff Ryders: Ryde or Die Vol. 1, fell to #4 this week. The album spotlighting rapper DMX's label includes songs by DMX, the Lox and Jay-Z, who contributed "Jigga My Nigga" (RealAudio excerpt).

McGraw's album led the charge in a big-selling week for country music. Shania Twain remained near the top of the chart with the year-and-a-half-old Come on Over, which features the pop hit "That Don't Impress Me Much," while the Dixie Chicks re-entered the top 10 with Wide Open Spaces, which climbed four spaces to #7. And singer George Strait, whose Always Never the Same had been fading in recent weeks, rebounded 18 places to #34.

Rounding out the top 10 were pop singer Britney Spears at #6 with ... Baby One More Time, rapper Nas at #8 with I Am, singer/actress Cher at #9 with Believe and Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli at #10 with Sogno.

Spears' album slipped out of the top five for the first time since its mid-January release.