Madonna Tops the Charts

But sales still lukewarm for Material Girl

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Madonna's American Life sold 241,000 copies last week, according to SoundScan, to debut Number One, topping the next best-selling album, 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin' by 100,000 copies.

That bit of chart domination aside, the figure is full of dubious implications. First there's the women in pop angle: While Madonna owned the Eighties and fared pretty damn well in the Nineties, television-made pop princess Kelly Clarkson's Thankful sold 56,000 more in its first week (the album fell to Number Three on this week's chart with sales of 134,000). And then there's how American Life's figure stacks up against Madonna's own recent sales -- again, not so hot. Her last release, Music, sold 420,000 to debut Number One in September 2000, while Ray of Light sold 371,000 (only good enough for Number Two) in March 1998.

And if Clarkson's coronation isn't ample proof of how the pop music landscape has changed, check this out: Ray of Light's first-week figure was the highest ever for a solo female artist in the SoundScan era. That 371,000 has since been topped by other artists with one-name recognition: Britney (twice), Shania, Janet, Celine (also twice) and Faith.

With last week's chart reflecting some busy Easter shopping, this week's was slight by comparison. The only other Top Fifty debuts were the Lizzie McGuire soundtrack (Number Eighteen, 51,000 copies sold), Mobb Deep's Vol. 1: Murder Mix (Number Twenty-one, 46,000) and Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society (Number Fifty, 19,000). And no album in the Top 100 enjoyed a sales increase.

Next week doesn't bring much promise. R&B and rap releases by Kelly Price, Mr. Cheeks and Keith Murray all have Top Ten potential. But this week's other big releases aren't likely to make waves. Trey Anastasio's two-CD live set will suffer from market saturation, while the Yeah Yeah Yeahs will have to try and win over fans outside of New York City (and music magazines) to enjoy a White Stripes-y type breakthrough.

This week's Top Ten: Madonna's American Life; 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin'; Kelly Clarkson's Thankful; Linkin Park's Meteora; Cher's The Very Best of Cher; Norah Jones' Come Away With Me; Evanescence's Fallen; Fleetwood Mac's Say You Will; Now That's What I Call Music! 12; and 50 Cent's New Breed.