Ashanti "II" is Number One

R&B singer bounces Beyonce from top slot

Ashanti's Chapter II sold 326,000 copies of her new album, Chapter II, according to SoundScan, to give the R&B singer her second straight Number One debut. And while the figure was nearly double that of the Number Two album, Beyonce Knowles' Dangerously in Love (183,000 copies sold), it still lacks the left-field punch of Ashanti's self-titled debut, which seemed to appear out of nowhere last year to sell 502,000 copies in its first week.

But such is the way of the charts this year. Total sales in the Top 200 were down yet again, and compared to the same week last year, they're off sixteen percent. Debuts are few and they are quickly disappearing (in just seven weeks, the Deftones' latest, to name just one, has toppled to Number Seventy-four, with sales of 15,000). With a new Pink single queued up for summer, the Charlie's Angels 2: Full Throttle soundtrack seemed to be a safe bet, but in two weeks the set has mustered just 103,000 sales and hasn't broken the Top Ten.

As a matter of fact, nobody seems to be feeding the annual hunger for a summer party single, even over an extended 4th of July weekend. Smash Mouth's album is still en route and Sugar Ray's In the Pursuit of Leisure is residing at Number 141 after a month of release. A look at the singles chart finds hearty sales by Clay Aiken for "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (Number One, 64,000 copies sold) and Ruben Studdard's "Flying Without Wings" (Number Two, 51,000), but neither would likely provide the soundtrack to any beach house, or certainly not one with anything stronger than Capri-Sun in the fridge.

Leaving us with a handful of other fair to middling debuts. Buddy Jewell, whose self-titled debut came about through a Nashvillian take on American Idol, tallied 52,000 copies of the album at Number Thirteen. Music City mainstay Tracy Byrd dropped in lower, selling 28,000 copies of The Truth About Men at Number Thirty-three.

Don't expect much in the way of relief on next week's chart. If a three-day celebratory holiday couldn't send people to record stores, it's aftermath won't be much more inspiring. Thalia's self-titled English-language debut album arrived in record stores this week. The singer/soap opera star is bigger than the sun in her native Mexico, but whether or not she can translate those sales into the American market remains to be seen. With sales so collectively awful, she holds a shot at Number One. But don't look to the batch of new releases for any sort of chart turnaround.

This week's Top Ten: Ashanti's Chapter II ; Beyonce Knowles' Dangerously in Love; Luther Vandross' Dance With My Father; Michelle Branch's Hotel Paper; 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin'; Metallica's St. Anger; Evanescence's Fallen; Monica's After the Storm; Norah Jones' Come Away With Me; and Three 6 Mafia's Da Unbreakables.