Britney Beats the Beatles

Spears scores fourth straight Number One

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In a crowded field of high-profile releases, Britney Spears' In the Zone sold 609,000 copies in its first week, according to SoundScan, to easily debut Number One. For Spears, that's four straight Number One albums, the first time a female artist has done so since SoundScan began charting record sales.

Though Spears' sales nearly doubled that of the Number Two album (G-Unit's Beg for Mercy, which sold 327,000), the week wasn't without other strong debuts. Blink-182's Blink-182 and the Beatles' Let It Be . . . Naked also earned Top Ten debuts, at Number Three and Five with sales of 313,000 and 280,000, respectively.

That was just the tip of the new arrival iceberg. Other solid first-week tallies were posted by Michael Jackson's Number Ones (121,000 copies sold at Number Thirteen), the Dave Matthews Band's Central Park Concert (111,000, Number Fourteen) and Korn's Take a Look in the Mirror (96,000, Number Nineteen), though all three record fall markedly below the commercial peaks set by those artists.

And the Number Twenty-one through Number Twenty-five slots were all new releases: the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Greatest Hits (92,500), 112's Hot and Wet (92,400), Linkin Park's Live in Texas (90,000), Leann Rimes' Greatest Hits (82,000) and Reba McEntire's Room to Breathe (73,000).

Older albums also began to pick up some holiday steam, as overall sales in the Top 200 were up to 7.9 million from 6.7 million last week, and the top sixteen sellers posted six-figure sales. With a big holiday shopping weekend ahead, sales should continue to spike, with Missy Elliott's This Is Not a Test the strongest bet to unseat Zone on next week's chart.

This week's Top Ten: Britney Spears' In the Zone; G-Unit's Beg for Mercy; Blink-182's Blink-182; Jay-Z's The Black Album; the Beatles' Let It Be . . . Naked; Josh Groban's Closer; 2Pac's Resurrection; Now That's What I Call Music! 14; Toby Keith's Shock N Y'all; and OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.