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    Fantasia Beats Diana...Again

    There's no question who's the real American Idol.

    In their first head-to-head competition with record buyers, American Idol champ Fantasia Barrino and runner-up Diana DeGarmo discovered that the show's fans vote the same way with their wallets.

    The now singularly named Fantasia's "I Believe"/"Chain of Fools" defended its singles chart perch by selling 81,000 copies last week, according to Nielsen SoundScan figures, while her Peach State challenger sold 65,000 copies of "Dreams"/"Don't Cry Out Loud" to debut at number two.

    Fantasia, who beat out Diana by 1.3 million votes on the Idol finale in May, was not expected to hold the top slot against DeGarmo's first-week sales; music biz pundits predicted DeGarmo's opening numbers would be around the same as Fantasia's 142,000-copy bow the week previous. The reigning Idol champ's two-week tally now sits at 223,000 copies. Both singers expect to have their debut albums out on RCA Records by year's end.

    Though nowhere near competitive with the Idol stars, Ashlee Simpson opened at three, selling nearly 8,000 copies of her debut single, "Pieces of Me."

    Over on the album charts, G-Unit rapper Lloyd Banks wiped out the competition with his solo debut, Hunger for More, which sold 433,000 discs at number one. The Jamaica, Queens-born emcee started G-Unit with longtime friends 50 Cent and Tony Yayo, and Banks subsequently appeared on Fiddy's smash hit Get Rich or Die Tryin'. Last November, G-Unit dropped its own debut, Beg For Mercy, which opened at number three selling 377,000 copies.

    Brandy's fourth career album, Afrodisiac, scored the week's second-best bow, moving 131,000 copies at number three. The singer-actress, who released her first album in 1994, is currently lighting up radio with the Kanye West collaboration, "Talk About Our Love."

    Cash Money rapper Lil' Wayne followed at five with his own fourth album, The Carter, selling 116,000 discs in its first week. The New Orleans emcee first made his mark with the hit group the Hot Boys, which featured Juvenile, Turk and B.G., before releasing his solo debut in 1999.

    The Cure, which celebrate its 25th anniversary as a recording entity this year, scored a career-high number-seven bow with the band's self-titled disc selling 90,000 copies. The group, which has sold 27 million combined copies worldwide, previously entered the charts at 16 with 2000's Bloodflowers, which at the time was thought to be its swan-song release. For its latest, the Cure hooked up with producer Ross Robinson, making this the first Cure disc to feature an outside producer.

    The Dave Matthews Band, who will perform at a John Kerry benefit concert tomorrow night at Radio City Music Hall, wrapped up the Top 10 bows at 10 as Gorge sold 83,000 copies. This live album captures DMB's three-night stand at Washington state's scenic Gorge Amphitheater in 2002.

    Last week's chart champ, Jadakiss' Kiss of Death, fell to number four with 122,000 copies. Usher's Confessions, in its 15th week, held down the number-two spot with 148,000 copies. The rest of the Top 10, all holdouts, were the Beastie Boys' To the 5 Boroughs at six, Gretchen Wilson's Here for the Party at eight and The Spider-Man 2 soundtrack at nine.

    Elsewhere on the album chart, Rush's Feedback--an EP featuring covers of the Who, Cream and Buffalo Springfield, among others--sold just over 48,000 at 19, topping Breaking Benjamin's We Are Not Alone by a mere 231 copies at number 20. Country crooner Joe Nichols followed at 23 with Revelation. Also making strong showings were the Orange County hardcore group Atreyu at 32 with Curse, the rap duo Slum Village at 37 with Detroit Deli--Taste of Detroit and former Kid Rock deejay Uncle Kracker at 39 with Seventy-Two and Sunny.

    Nina Sky, the Queens' pop duo featuring identical twins Natalie and Nicole Albino, checked in at 44 with its self-titled debut, while Maroon 5's 1.22.03 Acoustic (whose highlight track is, ironically, a plugged-in version of AC/DC's "Highway to Hell") followed at 46.

    Other noteworthy debuts included Akon's Trouble at 52, Goodie Mob's One Monkey Don't Stop the Show at 85, Unearth's Oncoming Storm at 105, Emerson Drive's What If? at 107, Midtown's Forget What You Know at 109 and Earshot's Two at 127.

    Here's a recap of last week's Top 10 albums, based on Nielsen SoundScan data.

    1. Hunger for More, Lloyd Banks
    2. Confessions, Usher
    3. Afrodisiac, Brandy
    4. Kiss of Death, Jadakiss
    5. The Carter, Lil' Wayne
    6. To the 5 Boroughs, Beastie Boys
    7. The Cure, The Cure
    8. Here for the Party, Gretchen Wilson
    9. Spider-Man 2, soundtrack
    10. Gorge, Dave Matthews Band

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