R&B star Mary J. Blige hit a runaway career high during a strong final week of holiday shopping when her latest studio album, The Breakthrough, sold a massive 727,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Blige's third Number One on the pop chart, her new effort moved nearly three times the number of copies in its first week in stores than any of her previous CDs -- including her last chart-topper, 2003's Love & Life. Also making big waves this week as one of only a handful of major year-end releases was Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx's first solo release in eleven years, the R&B album Unpredictable, which features guest spots from hip-hop superstar Kanye West, Twista, the Game, Ludacris, Common and Snoop Dogg. The Ray star's sophomore record moved a seriously impressive 598,000 copies to take second place.
The other major debut came from beyond the grave: the Notorious B.I.G. clocked in at Number Three (438,000) for his third Top Ten album on the pop chart, Duets: The Final Chapter -- his second posthumously, after 1999's Born Again. The record takes unused material from the legendary rapper's vault to create collaborations with artists ranging from hip-hop luminaries Jay-Z, Eminem and Snoop Dogg to R&B stars Blige and Biggie widow Faith Evans. Allegedly the "final" release from Biggie and Co., Duets helped to bump Eminem's first-ever hits compilation, Curtain Call, to Number Four (430,000) after it held the top spot for two consecutive weeks.
The rest of the chart was the expected grab-bag of safe holiday gifts, rife with American Idols. Our most recent Idol, country singer Carrie Underwood, rounded out a big-selling Top Five as her debut, Some Hearts, down three places to Number Five, sold another 401,000 CDs. The re-release of Mariah Carey's unstoppable, Grammy-nominated The Emancipation of Mimi climbed a spot to a distant Number Six (290,000); the twentieth installment of the ever-popular hits compilation series Now That's What I Call Music! fell four places to Number Seven (283,000); country star Kenny Chesney's latest, The Road and the Radio, dropped three spots to Number Eight (269,000); Canadian rockers Nickelback's All the Right Reasons fell three spots to Number Nine (265,000); and previous Idol Kelly Clarkson saw her second album, Breakaway, sell 230,000 more copies to drop two spots to Number Ten, after being in stores for more than a year.
The only disappointed Idol was this year's runner-up Bo Bice: the Alabama rocker's first effort, The Real Thing -- which features guest spots from members of Nickelback and Bon Jovi -- fell twelve places in just its second week out, to Number Sixteen. A tepid 163,000 copies moved in the year's most heated sales week cannot bode well for the Alabama rocker's future.
This week kicks off the slowest time of the year for music sales, as fans recover from their recently acquired holiday debts. So expect 2006 to open with a whimper, not a bang.
This week's Top Ten: Mary J. Blige's The Breakthrough; Jamie Foxx's Unpredictable; the Notorious B.I.G.'s Duets: The Final Chapter; Eminem's Curtain Call; Carrie Underwood's Some Hearts; Mariah Carey's The Emancipation of Mimi; Now That's What I Call Music! 20; Kenny Chesney's The Road and the Radio; Nickelback's All the Right Reasons; Kelly Clarkson's Breakaway.