"8 Mile" Ousts Shania

Soundtrack reclaims Number One

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With five weeks at Number One under its belt and a rush of holiday sales momentum pushing it towards the new release void that is January, Shania Twain's Up! seemed a shoo-in to match Creed's 2001/2002 run of eight weeks on top of the charts. But this week it was knocked off, and not by a randy rookie, as the chart featured no new releases, but rather by the year's biggest sales horse, Eminem. The 8 Mile soundtrack, which features new songs by the Motor City rapper, sold 313,000 copies last week, according to SoundScan, to return to Number One.

Up! nearly toppled to Number Three as its sales of 263,400, just edged Avril Lavigne's Let Go, which sold 263,000 copies and is once again flirting with the one sales achievement it hasn't attained this year: a week at Number One. Let Go itself just beat out the Dixie Chicks' Home, which sold 260,000 copies.

And while the numbers were strong for the four best-selling records, their positions underscore the sales slippage that has afflicted the industry. Let Go, 8 Mile, Home and Up! were four of the ten best-selling records of 2002, and only Lavigne's album was released before June, the halfway point of the year. Twain's Up! managed to be the year's tenth best-selling album, despite only five weeks of release; and despite the monstrous start, if some singles don't come along fast, it might be running out of gas. Considering that the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack wasn't even a 2002 release (or a 2001 release, for that matter), only five of the 2002's ten best releases showed any sort of long-term success without the huge push that comes from a November (read: holiday) release.

As a means of comparison, pre-SoundScan releases like Prince's Purple Rain enjoyed a twenty-four-week reign at Number One, Fleetwood Mac's Rumours spent thirty-one weeks on top, and Michael Jackson's Thriller lasted thirty-seven weeks. The Eminem Show has been a bona fide blockbuster this year, one sales week away from topping 8 million. But that said, it's an exception to the rule. The premium placed on the big first-week splash has all but ensured that there will never be another record that will spend half a year at Number One. But a more frightening (and telling) stat is how quickly "blockbuster" records are exiting the Top Ten, Top Forty and Top 200. The Eminem Show spent just four weeks at Number One, but it found its feet and after thirty-two weeks of release, it's still hovering near the Top Ten (Number Eleven, with sales of 187,000). The same can't be said for big-ticket releases by Korn, Tom Petty, Lifehouse, Beck, Alanis Morissette, Unkle Kracker and others, several of which crept back into the Top 200 only due to holiday sales spikes.

8 Mile's success on this week's charts leaves no certainty about next week's. Of the four albums clustered near Number One, Lavigne's Let Go has the sturdiest legs with thirty weeks of release thus far, making it less susceptible to the more dramatic ebbs and tides of the charts. Perhaps more than a half-year after its release, the teen-pop star's debut record can find its way to Number One.

This week's Top Ten: 8 Mile soundtrack; Shania Twain's Up!; Avril Lavigne's Let Go; the Dixie Chicks' Home; Jennifer Lopez's This Is Me . . . Then; Justin Timberlake's Justified; Norah Jones' Come Away With Me; Christina Aguilera's Stripped; Tim McGraw's Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors; and Aaliyah's Aaliyah.