Thanks to Avril Lavigne, it was the fall of the house of Usher on this week's album chart.
The un-Britney's sophomore album, Under My Skin, put the stops on Usher's dominating run atop Billboard's Top 200 by nearly doubling the sales of her Arista Records labelmate.
For the week ended Sunday, the Canadian "don't-call-me-a-punk" songstress' Under My Skin sold 380,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan numbers released today. The album also went number one in the U.K., Germany, Japan, Australia, Canada, Spain, Ireland, Thailand, Korea and Hong Kong.
Avril's 2002 debut, Let Go, sold more than 4 million copies its inaugural year to become the third best-selling album of the 2002, bested only by The Eminem Show and Nellyville. Still, Let Go only climbed as high as number two, so this marks the first time the 19-year-old star has ruled the charts.
Meanwhile, eight was enough for Usher's Confessions, which had topped the charts eight of nine weeks in release. This week, the R&B star's disc was outsold by both Lavigne and Slipnot. The clown-metal group's latest, Vol 3: The Subliminal Verses, sold 242,000 copies for a number two debut. The group's previous album, Iowa, only climbed as high as number three in late 2001, but the disc did sell about 12,000 more copies in its opening week.
Confessions moved 197,000 at number three.
Prince, who controversially bundled CDs with concert tickets in an apparent effort to boost his chart numbers, got back on tour last week and back in the Top 10. After sinking to 16, His Purpleness' Musicology jumped to number eight with nearly 71,000 copies sold; it was also certified platinum.
Speaking of external sales factors, continued box-office success helped the Shrek 2 soundtrack inch into the Top 10 in its third week out. The disc, which entered the charts at 36, now sits at number nine with 70,000 copies sold last week.
The rest of the Top 10 were holdovers: Gretchen Wilson's Here for the Party at four, Method Man's Tical 0: The Prequel at five, Hoobastank's The Reason at six, D12's D12 World at seven and New Found Glory's Catalyst at 10.
George Michael, whose new album, Patience, opened at 29, nearly cracked the Top 10 in its second week as the album rocketed 17 spots to number 12. The disc, which sold nearly 62,000 copies, came within 2,000 copies of the 10 spot.
Also scoring a big bow was country music's Lonestar, which debuted at 14 with Let's Be Us Again, selling 53,000 copies. American Idol season one star Tamyra Gray got a vote of confidence from the fans as her debut, Dreamer, sold 39,000 copies at 23. The reunited Wilson Phillips' California followed at 35 with 31,000 copies sold.
Other noteworthy debuts included Julie Roberts' self-titled at 51, Everlast's White Trash Beautiful at 56, Selah's Hiding Place at 61, the soundtrack to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at 68, Rockin' the Rhein with the Grateful Dead at 75 and industrial pioneers Skinny Puppy's Greater Wrong of the Right at 176.
Meanwhile, last week's 39th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards gave a bump to several key winners. Toby Keith, who took home four awards, including Entertainer of the Year, saw his Shock'n Y'All jump 15 spots to 29. Brooks & Dunn, winner of Top Vocal Duo, climbed 10 spots to 103 with Red Dirt Road. Alan Jackson, who picked up trophies for Single Record of the Year and Vocal Event, moved up 17 spots to 48 with Greatest Hits Vol. 2. And Top Female Vocalist and Humanitarian of the Year recipient Martina McBride catapulted 17 spots with Martina.
Finally, with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King hitting stores on DVD, the film's score reentered the charts at 149.
With no major new debuts in this holiday-shortened week, Usher and Avril will likely be at it again for chart bragging rights next week.
Here's a recap of the Top 10 albums:
1. Under My Skin, Avril Lavigne
2. Vol 3: The Subliminal Verses, Slipknot
3. Confessions, Usher
4. Here for the Party, Gretchen Wilson
5. Tical 0: The Prequel, Method Man
6. The Reason, Hoobastank
7. D12 World, D12
8. Musicology, Prince
9. Shrek 2 soundtrack, various
10. Catalyst, New Found Glory