To the victor may go the spoils, but the runner-up sells more records. At least that's how the "American Idol" popularity contest played out.
Last week, second-season champ Ruben Studdard sold more than 416,000 copies of his debut album, Soulful, according to SoundScan, falling nearly 200,000 copies short of the first-week total of Clay Aiken's 2-month-old Measure of a Man, which ranks fourth on this year's list of best-selling chart debuts. Clay also bested Ruben by more than 100,000 copies when the "AI" finalists' singles were simultaneously released in June.
Still, Ruben's debut will place first on next week's Billboard 200 albums chart, and the "Velvet Teddy Bear" has proven to be one of the most popular new artists of 2003, recording a duet with fellow big man Fat Joe and his working with producers Swizz Beatz and R. Kelly on Soulful. (Missy Elliott and Ja Rule also contributed, but their songs didn't make the final cut.)
Soulful will be trailed by The Diary of Alicia Keys and Now That's What I Call Music! 14, which sold more than 342,000 and 260,000 copies, respectively. Because of Diary's massive debut a week ago — third biggest of the year with 618,000 copies — the only place it could go was down. Her second album is the only disc in the top 20 that didn't see a rise in sales last week as the gift-giving holidays grew nearer. Of that pack, Rod Stewart enjoyed the biggest Christmas goose, moving six spots to #7 with As Time Goes By ... The Great American Songbook Volume II after an 83 percent boost in sales.
The Very Best of Sheryl Crow holds at #9, though its sales went up 32 percent to more than 173,000 copies. The rest of the top 10 slides slightly, as Toby Keith's Shock'n Y'all drops two to #4 (more than 245,000 sold); Josh Groban's Closer falls two to #5 (237,000); Outkast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below sinks one to #6 (215,000); Hilary Duff's Metamorphosis shifts down to #8; and Britney Spears' In the Zone dips three to #10 (158,000).
Hip-hop and R&B albums lead the pack of chart newbies, with Musiq's third album, Soulstar, fronting the charge at #13. Featuring Ice Cube, Mack 10 and WC, Westside Connection's return from a seven-year absence, Terrorist Threats, bows at #16, while singer Avant's third album, Private Room, comes in at #18.
The Big Tymers' Big Money Heavy debuts at #21, just missing a spot in the top 20 thanks to the Beatles' Let It Be ... Naked, which outsold it by around 500 copies. Despite the popularity of her Tasty single, "Milkshake," Kelis' third album bows at #27 with more than 93,000 copies sold. At least her record label decided to release it in the U.S., which is more than can be said for the singer's second album, Wanderland.
Rockers take their positions further down the chart. The Offspring's seventh album of their 14-year career, Splinter, debuts at #30 (87,000), a big drop from the mark set by their last album, 2000's Conspiracy of One, which placed at #9 with more than 125,000 sold. Hoobastank's second album, The Reason, bows at #45.
Other notable debuts include Nick Cannon's self-titled premiere at #83, Fefe Dobson's eponymous debut at #111, and Ryan Adams' second volume of his Love Is Hell twin EPs at #171.