Twain Holds Off McGraw

Country rules the pop chart

Shania Twain's Up! had a monstrous second week, selling 626,000 copies, according to SoundScan, to retain the Number One slot on the nation's album chart. In just two weeks, Up! has sold 1.5 million copies, and the album will likely continue to register six-figure sales until the stockings are pulled down from the chimney.

Despite Twain's daunting second-week numbers, she was nearly bumped, as Tim McGraw's Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors made cash registers ring a hearty 602,000 times last week, leaving him at Number Two. While women have ruled Nashville of late -- Shania, Faith and the Dixie Chicks have put up numbers akin to Garth Brook's heyday -- McGraw's latest puts him a cut above the sales level of his fellow guys-in-Stetsons, like Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, who topped the charts with sales of 423,000, 235,000 and 338,000, respectively.

McGraw has pop leanings, but he's always been diligent in incorporating them into his country. And the payoff has been huge: His A Place in the Sun debuted Number One with sales of 251,000 in 1999 and the follow-up, Set This Circus Down, was a Number Two starter with sales of 223,000 last year. Be it the synergy of a network television special and book, holiday help, or strong singles, McGraw's latest raised the bar. And as if there weren't enough cheddar rolling into McGraw's household, Cry, the latest album by his better half, Faith Hill, jumped from Number Fifteen to Number Seven with a sales spike from 90,000 to 230,000, likely pushed by her own television special.

Plenty of other newcomers fared well. 2Pac's Better Dayz sold 366,000 copies; down some 50,000 copies from his last record (which debuted at Number One), but still a hearty performer. Jennifer Lopez's This Is Me . . . Then also sold well, 314,000 copies at Number Six, but unlike her previous releases, the field wasn't empty for this album to dominate. Paul McCartney's Back in the U.S. actually fared better than his last studio album, Number Eight with 224,000 sales, perhaps picking up the gaggle of buyers who have been snatching up two-CD compilations all year long. Though System of a Down insisted that Steal This Album! was a genuine new album, not an odds and ends collection, fans only snatched up 167,000 copies of the record (Number Fifteen) . . . or perhaps the 55,000 additional fans who bought last year's Toxicity during its first week chose to follow the order issued in the title of their latest.

If rap has carried the industry on its shoulders all year long, the holidays don't seem quite as friendly to the genre. In addition to 2Pac's sales dip, Snoop Dogg's Paid tha Cost to Be da Boss sold 174,000 at Number Twelve, way down from Tha Last Meal, which moved 397,000 two years ago. Busta Rhymes encountered some of the same buyer indifference selling 62,000 copies of It Ain't Safe No More at Number Forty-three.

This week's Top Ten: Shania Twain's Up!; Tim McGraw's Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors; 8 Mile soundtrack; Now That's What I Call Music! 11; 2Pac's Better Dayz; Jennifer Lopez's This Is Me . . . Then; Faith Hill's Cry; Paul McCartney's Back in the U.S.; Avril Lavigne's Let Go; and Christina Aguilera's Stripped.