If you thought that the crowning of Ashanti as the "Princess of Hip-Hop and Soul" was something of a premature coronation, you'd be wrong. The dancer-turned-singer had only a guest appearance on Big Pun's "How We Roll," and a minor movie clip to her credit. But the latest signee to Irv Gotti's Murder Inc. label (an imprint of Def Jam) sold 502,000 copies of her self-titled album last week, according to SoundScan. That tally, the second highest first-week sales figure of the year, was good enough to debut Number One and knock out Celine Dion's New Day Has Come off of the top spot after only one week.
Ashanti nearly doubled New Day's Number Two figure of 263,000 and handily topped the week's other R&B newcomer, Tweet's Southern Hummingbird, which debuted at Number Three with sales of 195,000.
The charts were otherwise a bit stagnant. After wallets loosened a bit for Easter, they closed right back up this week, as only six albums in the entire Top 200 experience sales increases from last week. Though of those six, three have made notable progress. Nappy Roots' Watermelon, Chicken and Gritz has steadily been creeping up the charts. Without the benefit of the usual hip-hop promotional bells and whistles, the debut record by the Kentucky ensemble moved up to Number Twenty-eight this week with sales of 39,000. And singer-songwriter John Mayer's Room for Squares has also showed steady growth in its fourteen weeks on the charts, moving from Number Sixty-one to Number Thirty-eight, with sales of 28,000. And the White Stripes are fishing dangerously close to the mainstream; the band's third album, White Blood Cells moved from Number 116 last week to Number Sixty-one this week, with sales of 17,000.
As for next week, it's anybody's call. Should Ashanti fall prey to the standard fifty-percent Week Two sales dip, Neil Young's Are You Passionate?, the Goo Goo Dolls' Gutterflower and Bonnie Raitt's Silver Lining will only need to scan a quarter million copies to find their way to the top.
This week's Top Ten: Ashanti's Ashanti; Celine Dion's New Day Has Come; Tweet's Southern Hummingbird; Now That's What I Call Music! 9; O Brother, Where Art Thou?; Jay-Z and R. Kelly's The Best of Both Worlds; Avant's Ecstasy; The Scorpion King; Ludacris' Word of Mouf; and Pink's Missundaztood.