"8 Mile" Wallops Christina

Soundtrack continues Eminem's winning ways

Perhaps it was that three years had passed since Christina Aguilera released her last English-language record. Perhaps, through the relentless "Lady Marmalade"-promotion, she'd scratched our itch, and gitch, 'til it bled. Or perhaps, the teenage girls who bought her sugar-pop in 1999 weren't as interested in the sleazier update found on Stripped. Whatever the cause, Stripped sold a robust, yet hardly earth-shattering 330,000 copies in its first week according to SoundScan to debut at Number Two. And in the media-generated Mouse fight, that tally falls well short of half of Britney Spears' Britney, which did 750,000 units this time last year.

If Aguilera isn't a sure thing at Number One, Eminem Show sure is. Despite Spears' and Aguilera's hefty sales track records, the rapper has proved to be the true Teflon blonde, continuing to ring registers while the overall industry suffers from sales fatigue. The proof is in the Eight Mile soundtrack, which only features four Eminem songs along with tracks by Jay-Z, Macy Gray, 50 Cent and others. The album still sold 702,000 copies to debut Number One. And as soundtracks tend to enjoy a stronger second week of sales (once the accompanying film is released), 8 Mile just might stick around and pick on another former Mouseketeer, Justin Timberlake, and his Justified, which was released this week.

The first week sales of 8 Mile and Stripped stole a bit of thunder from Nirvana's Nirvana, which still got off to a strong start with 234,000 copies sold at Number Three. That's 50,000 more copies than Nirvana's last proper album, In Utero, managed in its first week nearly a decade ago.

And there was even more action inside the Top Ten. Santana's Shaman was the unfortunate incumbent smothered by the big release week. The album still sold 175,000 copies while falling to Number Four, 6,000 copies ahead of Melt, the second album by pop-tinged country ensemble, Rascal Flatts, who through a slow-steady grassroots promotion of their self-titled debut (released two years ago), seemingly materialized out of nowhere in the Top Five.

The 107,000 copies Tori Amos sold of Scarlet's Walk would usually (particularly this year) cinch a Top Five berth, but the album settled in at Number Seven, a slot ahead of Eminem's The Eminem Show, which after twenty-four weeks of release enjoyed a sales increase, with another one likely after 8 Mile opens this weekend. Given that record and film release schedules are as rigid as clay, who's to say whether Eminem's releases this year bear the mark of marketing genius. But by capitalizing on a spring-to-summer boom with The Eminem Show, he owned the first half of the year, and with a good early buzz on 8 Mile, the film, he's found legs to carry his star into the lucrative holiday season. Eminem still needs years of such success under his belt -- and with regular turnovers in public tastes the odds are against him -- but the creative synergy and media omnipresence of his 2002 hearken to a year in the life of Elvis Presley. Though even the King never enjoyed making a film with a respected director like Curtis Hanson.

Back to the charts: There were swarms of other new albums buzzing through record stores last week, rap being the presiding genre. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony sold 82,000 copies of Thug World Order at Number Twelve, Lil' Jon and the Eastside Boyz were three slots behind with Kings of Crunk (71,000 sold) and Too Short's What's My Favorite Word did just fine at Number Thirty-eight with sales of 27,000. R&B fared well too: Tank's One Man debuted at Number Twenty with sales of 58,000 and Stevie Wonder wandered back into the Top Fifty with Definitive Collection (Number Thirty-five, 29,000 copies sold).

The week's two biggest surprises were issued by Shaggy and Sigur Ros. With Hotshot, released at the end of 2000, the former rode two smash singles to one of the best-selling records of last year. Without a reprise of the inane "It Wasn't Me" and the borderline plagiaristic "Angel," his latest, Lucky Day is single-free and as a result sold 50,000 copies to debut at Number Twenty-four. On the flip side of Shaggy's mainstream-tailored dancehall reggae, Sigur Ros just might be the single most oddball entry in the Top 100 this year. Without an album title and singing in a gibberish dubbed "Hopelandic," the ethereal band of Icelandic art-rockers make Radiohead's Kid A sound like Brill Building product. Yet the group's second American release, (), sold 20,000 copies at Number Fifty-one. Be it their signing with a major label (MCA) or the word of mouth that surrounded their last album, the Shortlist Prize-winning Agaetis Byrjun, ()'s first week number reveals a critical mass that still enjoy plugging into the unfamiliar.

Three slots below () is one of the year's most enjoyable success stories. The venerable norteno band, Los Tigres del Norte made a very strong showing with La Reina del Sur, which jumped in at Number Fifty-four with just under 20,000 copies sold. And, once again, Phish fans proved to have deep pockets as four of their Live Phish authorized bootleg series splashed onto the charts at Numbers 112, 139, 144 and 146.

Amid all the clamor of high profile new releases, a sadder note was struck at Number 117. Run-D.M.C.'s Greatest Hits, which was quietly released in September, entered the charts on a wave of mourning for slain DJ Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell.

This week's Top Ten: Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture 8 Mile; Christina Aguilera's Stripped; Nirvana's Nirvana; Santana's Shaman; Rascal Flatts' Melt; Faith Hill's Cry; Tori Amos' Scarlet's Walk; Eminem's The Eminem Show; Avril Lavigne's Let Go; and the Dixie Chicks' Home.