Shania Ups the Ante

Crossover queen lands her first Number One

Shania Twain's Up! sold 874,000 copies according to SoundScan, easily topping the charts this holiday week. It's a remarkable start for Twain, though the album will need iron legs to match the success of its predecessor, 1999's Come on Over, the best-selling record ever by a solo female artist with 17 million copies sold to date. That said, Up! managed one milestone that Come on Over never did and likely never will. Twain's last record never reached Number One, coming as only as close as Number Two, when it debuted on the charts 3,000 copies behind Mase's Double Up.

Predictably, with the holidays approaching, there were plenty of other strong newcomers on the charts. Now That's What I Call Music! 11 continues the popular series' success, though its numbers seem to have peaked a year ago. The compilation sold 316,000 copies at Number Two. Ja Rule's The Last Temptation jumped in at Number Four with sales of 238,000, Matchbox Twenty's More Than You Think You Are sold 178,000 at Number Six and Audioslave -- the new supergroup composed of Chris Cornell and three-fourths of Rage Against the Machine -- moved 162,000 of their self-titled debut at Number Seven.

Debuts were scattered beyond the Top Ten too, though not all were smiling. Toni Braxton's More Than a Woman sold 98,000 copies at Number Thirteen, down eleven slots and 100,000 copies from 2000's Heat. Mudvayne's End of All Things to Come sold 79,000 at Number Seventeen, George Harrison's posthumous release, Brainwashed, landed a slot lower with sales of 74,000, rapper Talib Kweli sold 68,000 copies of Quality -- further establishing his place above the underground -- and Craig David continues to fare better on the other side of the pond than in the U.S., as Slicker Than Your Average rolled in at Number Thirty-two with sales of 54,000.

With the wash of new arrivals that flood record stores every Tuesday, the charts aren't particularly friendly to the underdog looking for a back door. The most prominent chart movement among non-debut albums tends to be the quick exit. U2's new greatest hits package, to cite one example, fell from Number Three to Number Forty-nine in just three weeks of release. New albums are replacing new albums weekly, like shark teeth, but only Avril Lavigne's Let Go and The Eminem Show have displayed any long-term bite. And once the wrapping paper settles in late December, the rest of winter could be even colder, as buyers head back home.

Next weeks charts will feature the new teeth released yesterday, Super Tuesday. Sum 41, Snoop Dogg, System of a Down, Paul McCartney and Tim McGraw all pushed new albums into stores, and they will likely push out this week's newcomers . . . with the possible exception of Shania. Come on Over mustered eight hit singles; that's a Thriller-like tally. And her savvy decision to release a double version of Up!, one CD of pop mixes, the other of "country" versions, only underscores her understanding of the market. The album can sleepwalk past 1 million copies, but the set's more important barometric role may be further down the role. Despite the industry's reluctance to return to yesteryear and emphasize the sale of individual songs, it's still all about singles. Customers are a brighter set than they've been credited for, and if the CD doesn't meet $20 worth of value, they'll download the meat and leave the fat behind. If Up! can't come close to matching Come on Over's song-by-song weight, grab some kindling and a blanket.

This week's Top Ten: Shania Twain's Up!; Now That's What I Call Music! 11; the 8 Mile soundtrack; Ja Rule's The Last Temptation; Jay-Z's The Blueprint 2: The Gift and the Curse; Matchbox Twenty's More Than You Think You Are; Audioslave's Audioslave; Missy Elliott's Under Construction; Avril Lavigne's Let Go; and Justin Timberlake's Justified.