Veteran New Orleans rapper Juvenile has been working his hip-hop game for well over a decade, and in all that time he hasn't known what it's like to top Billboard's albums chart. He'd come close once -- 2001's Project English racked up more than 213,000 week-one sales to open at #2 -- but it's his latest LP, Reality Check, that finally did the trick.
Juve's chart-topping campaign came dangerously close to collapse thanks not to a musician, but to Oprah. According to the latest SoundScan figures, Reality Check -- which features collaborations with Ludacris, Mike Jones, Fat Joe, Bun B, Paul Wall and a host of others -- sold more than 174,000 copies during its initial week of release, which was enough to secure Billboard's high seat. But had just 14,000 more viewers tuned in to "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on March 8, things could've ended differently.
British crooner James Blunt was Oprah's guest that afternoon, and performed the infectious first single from his Back to Bedlam LP, "You're Beautiful." The booking helped score a 142 percent boon to album sales, with Blunt's disc moving more than 161,000 units and climbing seven spots to #2, the highest spot the album has reached since it landed on U.S. shores 23 weeks ago. Blunt didn't pull off the upset, but there had to have been moments last week when Juvenile needed a little extra antiperspirant.
The soundtrack to the Disney Channel original movie "High School Musical" continues to give chart newcomers trouble, dropping just one spot with more than 138,000 copies sold in its ninth week of retail availability. The singing teens robbed Hasidic dancehall rapper Matisyahu of a top-three debut. The reggae artist's Youth lands at #4 with an opening-week showing of close to 119,000 scans. His 2005 album, Live at Stubb's, drops six to #36 with 25,000-plus units disappearing from store shelves. More than 483,000 copies of the disc have been sold since its release last April.
Billboard's previous champ, Ne-Yo, slips to #5 with sales of his debut offering, In My Own Words, coming in at more than 113,000. Right behind Yo is Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour's third solo outing (and first in more than 20 years), On an Island. The album is the third and last newbie to make the top 10, after earning sales of nearly 96,000.
Carrie Underwood's Some Hearts climbs one spot to #7 with 74,000 scans, followed by two heaping helpings of Johnny Cash: the retrospective collection The Legend of Johnny Cash, which finishes at #8 with 70,000 copies sold, and the soundtrack to the Cash biopic "Walk the Line," which sold more than 63,000 units to climb two to #9. Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies for the Film "Curious George" from Jack Johnson and Friends rounds out the top 10, finishing with sales nearing 60,000.
The latest from ex-Geto Boy Scarface, My Homies Part 2, bows at #12 with close to 58,000 in week-one sales, leading several Billboard debuts of note, including Van Morrison's newest, Pay the Devil, which claims the #26 spot with just under 32,000 copies sold. Noteworthy in its absence is Lil Wayne's Tha Carter II: Chopped & Screwed. The disc failed to crack the top 200, with sales coming in at just over 2,000. Tha Carter II opened at #2 with 238,000 copies sold when it was released in December.
The self-titled, inaugural offering from the Little Willies, the rock-imbued side project of Norah Jones and folk singer Richard Julian, pops up at #48 with 20,000 in sales, while Neko Case's Fox Confessor Brings the Flood checks in at #54 with close to 18,000 copies sold. Mogwai's Mr. Beast claims the #128 slot with 8,000 scans, and Goldfrapp's Supernature follows at #138, having sold more than 7,000 copies. The latest from Public Enemy, Rebirth of a Nation, opens at #180 with close to 6,000 units scanned, bagged, and carried out of record stores.