Ashanti Edges Out Beyonce In Billboard's Dueling Divas Face-Off

Murder Inc. chanteuse's Chapter II LP sold around 135,000 copies this week.

For the second week in a row, R&B vixens Ashanti and Beyoncé will gallop neck and neck to a photo finish on the Billboard albums chart, and once again, Ashanti will edge her out.

On next week's chart, the Murder Inc. chanteuse's Chapter II will be listed as having sold 135,000 copies, besting the Destiny's Child singer's Dangerously in Love by fewer than 4,000 copies, according to SoundScan figures released Wednesday (July 16). This narrows the gap from last week, when Ashanti beat Beyoncé by about 10,000.

Almost all of last week's top 10 artists will remain near the top of the chart, though half will shift positions.

Diaphanous metal quartet Evanescence will climb four places to #3, matching their highest position since the March release of their debut, Fallen. The group sold just over 72,000 records last week, an increase of more than 3,000 from the week before. An appearance on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and the band's second single, "Going Under," impacting at radio could account for the sales jump.

Luther Vandross' new album, Dance With My Father, will dip one slot to #4 with 68,000 in sales, a numeric decrease of more than 33,000. 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin' hangs in at #5, but drops almost 10,000 in sales to 66,000, echoing the continuing chartwide sales decline.

The bottom half of the top 10 starts with Michelle Branch, whose second record, Hotel Paper, falls two more positions to #6 with sales of over 64,000. Metallica's St. Anger slips one spot to #7 and drops almost 9,000 in sales to 62,000 despite the successful launch of their Summer Sanitarium Tour.

The final three top positions will be filled by Norah Jones, whose Come Away With Me sold more than 61,000, bringing her total past the 6.5 million mark; Trace Adkins, whose Vol. 1 Greatest Hits will debut at #9; and Cher, whose Very Best of Cher will climb eight positions to re-enter the top 10, largely because of her farewell tour, which goes on and on and on ...

The second-biggest debut on the chart is by Mexican actor and singer Thalia, who married former Sony Music head Tommy Mottola in 2000. Her self-titled album will enter at #11.

The Ataris will take a huge leap up the charts. Their fifth album, So Long, Astoria, will climb 23 positions to #79 thanks to the success of their punked-up cover of Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer." Celine Dion's One Heart will vault 16 positions to #28. And Black Eyed Peas' second disc, Elephunk, will climb seven places to #34.

One of the biggest chart slides will again go to Three 6 Mafia's Da Unbreakables, which will drop 11 slots to #21. Another hip-hop act, Gang Starr, will face a similar fate with their new disc, Ownerz, which will plummet 22 notches to #62.