All summer long it's been R&B that has weathered tepid sales, so it should come as little surprise that Maxwell's Now, his first album of new material in three years, stormed to the top of the charts with first-week sales of 296,388, according to SoundScan. That figure was good enough to knock another "Now" - the various artists hits compilation Now That's What I Call Music! 7 -- out of the Number One slot for the first time in a month.
With dazzling newcomers including Alicia Keys and Blu Cantrell stacking up promising sales alongside semi-veterans (Destiny's Child and Usher), veterans (Janet Jackson), and pioneers (the Isley Brothers), R&B has been the rare genre to show chart muscle during the summer months. Thirteen R&B titles pepper the Top Fifty, which, when paired with the ten rap albums in the same part of the chart, positions urban music as nearly half of the Top Fifty.
The most notable jump over the past week was, not surprisingly, Aaliyah's self-titled third album. Although the week's sales figures closed Sunday -- the same day that the news of her tragic plane crash broke -- Aaliyah pushed from 43,877 the previous week to sales of 62,081 (from Number Twenty-seven to Number Nineteen). Look for the album near the top of next week's chart.
Just a notch below Maxwell, was New Orleans rapper Juvenile's sixth album, Project English, which sold a very respectable 213,486 copies. Aside from the newcomers to the Number One and Two positions, the Top Ten looked otherwise much the same with Now That's What I Call Music! 7 (Number Three), Keys' Songs in A Minor (Number Four), 'N Sync's Celebrity (Number Five), and the Isley's Eternal (Number Six), all stepping down two notches from the previous week, but holding their order.
Next week promises some serious shuffling in the Top Ten. Aside from the continuing rush to buy Aaliyah, heavy-hitters Slipknot (Iowa) and Mary J. Blige (No More Drama) are poised for strong debuts. In Slipknot's favor, hard rock has been released with a lighter frequency this summer than R&B, but offerings from Staind and Tool have proven that the kids wallets are alright.
This week's Top Ten: Maxwell's Now (296,388 copies sold); Juvenile's Project English (213,486); Now That's What I Call Music! 7 (211,527); Alicia Keys' Songs in A Minor (165,482); 'N Sync's Celebrity (138,555); Isley Brothers' Eternal (107,912); Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory (103,939); Usher's 8701 (96,696); Staind's Break the Cycle (96,671); and Jennifer Lopez's J.Lo (91,657).