Monica Storms to Number One

R&B singer takes top spot from Vandross

In taking five years to record and release her latest album, Monica seems to have made some ravenous fans. The R&B singer's After the Storm sold 186,000 copies, according to SoundScan, to debut Number One. The figure is more than double that of her previous release, The Boy Is Mine, which dropped in at Number Eight in 1998.

Storm just edged Luther Vandross' Dance With My Father, which sold 182,000 copies at Number Two, easily putting its to-date sales past a half-million. Actually, the top of the charts has become something of a J Records logjam, as the label issued Storm and Dance, as well as this week's Number Five album, Annie Lennox's Bare, which sold 93,000 copies. In between is Metallica's St. Anger, which sold 138,000 copies at Number Three, pushing it past 900,000 sales in less than three full weeks.

Last week's chart indicated that the summer was heating up record sales, with ten new albums in the Top Fifty and 5.3 million album sales in the Top 200. But this week's chart tells a different story: The Top 200 only registered 3.9 million sales, and other than Monica's Storm the only newcomers of note were goth metalmen Type O Negative's Life Is Killing Me (Number Thirty-nine, 27,000 copies sold) and the various artists collection Reggae Gold 2003 (Number Forty-three, 25,000).

This week's fiercest battle is on the singles chart, where Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard remain engaged in an American Idol sell-off. The former sold another 144,000 copies of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (which sold 393,000 last week) while the latter sold 112,000 of "Flying Without Wings" (286,000 last week). As a bit of perspective, the Number Three single, the American Idol collaboration "God Bless the U.S.A.," moved a mere 8,000 copies.

As for next week's album chart, Destiny's Child frontwoman Beyonce Knowles' solo debut, Dangerously in Love, looks like a lock for the top slot, but Michelle Branch's Hotel Paper should put up strong numbers based on the steady success of her debut. A bit lower down, it will be interesting to see if Liz Phair decision to sell her soul to the Matrix on her self-titled fourth album will translate into a sales success.

This week's Top Ten: Monica's After the Storm; Luther Vandross' Dance With My Father; Metallica's St. Anger; Radiohead's Hail to the Thief; Annie Lennox's Bare; 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin'; Norah Jones' Come Away With Me; Evanescence's Fallen; the 2 Fast 2 Furious soundtrack; and Kelly Clarkson's Thankful.