With Christmas just around the corner, it's apropos that this week's Billboard albums sales chart will be topped by a Snowman -- not Frosty, of course, but Atlanta rapper Young Jeezy, who melted visions of a #1 debut that have been dancing around "American Idol" Taylor Hicks' head.
The sophomore solo set from Jeezy, The Inspiration, sold more than 352,000 copies its first week on store shelves, besting Hicks' self-titled offering by more than 53,000 scans, leaving the salt-and-pepper-haired singer settling for second best. Taylor Hicks generated more than 298,000 in week-one sales during a hectic seven days for record-shop cash registers, according to the latest SoundScan totals.
With The Inspiration, Jeezy -- a former member of hip-hop quartet Boyz N Da Hood -- has earned the first chart-topping showing of his career, and even bested his first LP, 2005's Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101, which opened at #2 with 172,000 in sales. (Watch the Snowman discuss the making of his new LP in this RAW chat).
While his #2 chart entry wasn't shabby, Hicks hasn't proven himself to be the most sought-after "Idol" on the charts. The self-titled debut from Daughtry, the band fronted by "American Idol" finalist Chris Daughtry, achieved week-one scans of close to 304,000 following its release last month. Carrie Underwood's Some Hearts sold more than 314,000 copies its first week, and Clay Aiken's 2003 Measure of a Man racked up 613,000 in first-week sales, which was enough for the chart's peak position. That same year, Ruben Studdard's Soulful also opened at #1, selling 417,000 units.
Following Hicks at #3 this week is one of the surprise hits of 2006: the soundtrack to the Disney Channel original series "Hannah Montana," which continues to generate strong interest at retail with nearly 274,000 copies grabbed up. The Now That's What I Call Music! 23 collection, featuring contributions from Justin Timberlake, Fergie, Snoop Dogg and Christina Aguilera, finished at #4 with 235,000 units scanned, followed at #5 by Josh Groban's Awake, selling 222,000 copies.
Underwood's Some Hearts climbs four spots this week to #6, with sales reported at 199,000, while Daughtry occupies the chart's #7 slot with 181,000 scans. Holding at #8 is the Beatles' Cirque du Soleil soundtrack project Love, with 178,000 scans, followed at #9 by Reflections (A Retrospective), an anthology featuring some of Mary J. Blige's biggest hits that debuts this week with 171,000 sold. (Get personal with Blige as she reveals her struggles and rates her LPs in this RAW chat.) Rounding out the top 10 is Il Divo's Siempre, with 167,000 copies sold.
Jeezy, Hicks and Blige weren't the sole newcomers to this week's chart. In all, just seven releases cracked the top 200 during a week in which the country's best-selling albums generated more than 9.3 million in total sales -- up from the previous week's 7.2-million-sold mark. The latest from former "American Idol" victor Fantasia Barrino, Fantasia, opened at #19 this week with close to 133,000 copies sold. Tyrese's Alter Ego bows at #23, selling 116,000 units, while Ghostface Killah's More Fish checks in at #71 with 36,000 scans. Finally, finishing at #98 is the deluxe edition of Neil Diamond's 2005 opus 12 Songs. The re-release, which Diamond was hocking on QVC earlier this month, boasts two discs of Neil numbers, and sold more than 24,000 copies last week.