Meteora's scored a meteoric debut.

Linkin Park's latest tallied the second best single-week sales of 2003 to easily enter the pop album chart at number one.

For the week ended Sunday, Meteora moved 810,000 copies, according to SoundScan figures. That is behind only 50 Cent's 872,000 (which was done in only four days after the album was moved up due to Internet bootlegging) and surpasses the likes of Norah Jones and the Dixie Chicks. In fact, Meteora's first-week totals now rank as one of the best ever for a rock artist. Of course, this all comes during a period of soft consumer spending as America dives into another Gulf War, which suggests Linkin Park might have topped a million copies under other circumstances.

Not bad for a band that never sniffed the top slot before. Though Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory finished 2001 as the year's top seller, the Grammy-winning group could never get past number two. The same thing went for their Reanimation CD last year, which remained parked in the runner-up spot.

The band attributes the boffo sales to drastic anti-piracy mesaures to assure that the album wouldn't be leaked on the Net. Only two people had keys to the recording studio, a limited number of digital master recordings were made and no review copies were sent out to the press (instead, listening parties were held at Warner Records company offices).

Though the war clearly affected sales, the charts still boasted five new debuts in the Top 10. Celine Dion's One Heart, which hit stores the same day she premiered her new Las Vegas show, opened at number two with 431,000 copies sold. Despite incessant hype for the Vegas extravaganza and album, including a prime-time special on CBS hosted by Justin Timberlake, Dion didn't come close to matching Meteora, and her sales were off by nearly 100,000 from the first-week numbers for her previous effort, 2002's A New Day Has Come.

Now That's What I Call Music! 12 opened in the three spot with 256,000 copies. The latest installment in the pop-hits series features songs by Saliva, Nelly and B2K.

Other Top 10 bows belonged to Brian McKnight and the Diplomats. McKnight came in seventh, selling 108,000 copies of U Turn, which features appearances by Nelly and Fabolous. The Diplomats followed at eight with their double-disc debut, Diplomatic Immunity, moving 91,000 copies. The Harlem threesome, featuring the platinum-selling Cam'ron, previously dropped four underground mixtapes but no proper albums.

Though falling two spots, the Chicago soundtrack sold 121,000 copies with a 25,000-copy bump in the wake of the film's top Oscar honors. Also enjoying a post-Oscar bump was The Pianist soundtrack, which rocketed to number one on the classical charts following the film's sweep of Best Director, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay trophies.

Familiar faces filled the rest of the Top 10: 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin' at four, Norah Jones' Come Away with Me at five, Evanescence's Fallen at nine and R. Kelly's Chocolate Factory at 10.

Still feeling the sting from criticizing President Bush, the Dixie Chicks' Home finally dropped from the Top 10 down to number 16. The Chicks remain a popular punching bag for conservative talk-show hosts, one of which is assembling an anti-Chicks rally in South Carolina already scheduled to include Marshall Tucker Band and Ty Nelson. On the flipside, Toby Keith's ultrapatriotic Unleashed jumped 13 spots to 29. The disc features his controversial pro-invasion hit "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)."

Elsewhere on the charts, B2K scored the spike of the week as Pandemonium! jumped 71 spots to 13. The sales "bump bump bump" reflects a repackaged version hitting stores with three previously unreleased R. Kelly-penned tracks, including "Girlfriend," which recently topped the TRL countdown.

Rewind Hip Hop: Issue #1, the first installment in a new quarterly DVD magazine, opened at 34 with 26,000 copies sold. Featured artists include 50 Cent, Snoop and Judakiss. Other noteworthy debuts included Hot Boys' Let 'Em Burn at 14, 702's Star at 45, Jaci Velasquez's Unspoken at 55, teen Christian singer Stacie Orrico's self-titled at 59, Les Nubians' One Step Forward at 79, Avalon's The Very Best of Avalon at 112 and Ringo Starr's Ringo Rama doing a flop-o-rama at 113.

Here's a rundown of the Top 10 albums for the week ended Sunday, according to SoundScan:

1. Meteora, Linkin Park
2. One Heart, Celine Dion
3. Now That's What I Call Music! 12, Various
4. Get Rich or Die Tryin', 50 Cent
5. Come Away with Me, Norah Jones
6. Chicago soundtrack, Various
7. U Turn, Brian McKnight
8. Diplomatic Immunity, The Diplomats
9. Fallen, Evanescence
10. Chocolate Factory, R. Kelly

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