"I feel so crazy right now — just in the air," Ashanti said when she learned that her self-titled debut would claim the #1 spot on next week's Billboard 200 albums chart.
She heard the news while visiting a radio station in New York. Murder Inc. CEO Irv Gotti paged the R&B star with the SoundScan figures: #1 with more than 500,000 copies sold. The "Foolish" singer was so excited that she and her friends celebrated with a bottle of Dom Perignon live on the radio.
It was clear that Gotti was proud of Ashanti. "I'm a dreamer. I always say we can go beyond our expectations, but she went beyond my expectations," he said. "I've never been speechless in my whole career, but I'm speechless."
And with good reason. Ashanti's first-week numbers were so big, she outsold the #2 artist, Celine Dion, and #3 artist, Tweet, combined. Former chart-topper Dion's A New Day Has Come sold more than 260,000 copies. And Tweet, Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott's protégé and the artist billed as Ashanti's direct competition, flew Southern Hummingbird into third place, selling nearly 195,000 albums, according to SoundScan figures released Wednesday (April 10).
Although Now That's What I Call Music! Vol. 9 comes in at #4, the hits collection sold only about 193,000 copies — less than half of what it did the previous week. The "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack spends its 67th week on the chart at #5 with around 91,000 copies sold.
The bottom half of the top 10 holds no surprises. The Best of Both Worlds by Jay-Z and R. Kelly takes #6 (around 82,000 copies sold). Avant's Ecstasy moves into #7 in its second week, while "The Scorpion King" soundtrack holds steady at #8, and Ludacris and Pink round out the list, coming in at #9 and #10, respectively.
Aside from the two debuts — Ashanti and Tweet — only three artists in the top 100 sold more albums last week than the week before: Nappy Roots (Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz, up 13 spots to #28 with 39,000 copies sold), John Mayer (Room for Squares, up 23 spots to #38 with 28,000 sold) and the White Stripes (White Blood Cells, up 55 spots to #61 with 17,000 sold).
Other climbers include Jay-Z's The Blueprint, which makes a 51-notch jump to #137 in its 30th week, following the release of Jay's latest single, "Song Cry." The Baha Men, proving they're more than one-hit wonders, rise 31 places to #64 with Move It Like This. Drowning Pool's Sinner climbs 48 spots to #96, and Phantom Planet, whose "California" has been getting a lot of burn lately, jump 31 spots to #143 with The Guest.
Darren Hayes' Spin, meanwhile, is in a tailspin, plummeting 46 spots to #132. While volume nine is doing well in the upper reaches of the chart, volume eight of the Now That's What I Call Music! series drops 30 notches to #73. Also losing their footing are Jars of Clay, whose Eleventh Hour slips 29 places to #104.
In a pretty sparse week for chart debuts, standouts include Lil' J's All About J (#148), Apex Theory's Topsy-Turvy (#157) and Course of Nature's Superkala (#166). Even though it's not a new album, Res' How I Do squeezes onto the chart for the first time at #200.