It took an atomic bomb to dismantle Eminem 's encore.
U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb blew Em's Encore out of the top slot the latter had occupied for two straight weeks. Atomic Bomb, the Irish quartet's 11th student album, exploded with 840,000 in sales for the week ended Sunday, according to Nielsen SoundScan data, to debut on top of the Billboard 200.
U2's first-week numbers mark a career best for the band and the third highest open for 2004, trailing only Usher's Confessions (1.1 million) and Norah Jones' Feels Like Home (1.02 million). Eminem's Encore, rush-released to stores, sold a whopping 871,000 second-week copies, giving Atomic Bomb takes the fourth best week overall for the year. U2 benefited from huge radio play for the lead single "Vertigo," a multimillion-dollar Apple iPod/iTunes campaign and a carefully orchestrated marketing strategy.
Chiefly produced by Steve Lillywhite, Atomic Bomb survived a piracy scare when unfinished tracks went missing last summer. And even though the album was leaked early to song-swapping sites, it nearly doubled the opening sales of their previous disc, 2000's All That You Can Leave Behind. The latter peaked at three on the charts and went on to win seven Grammys, including Record and Song of the Year in 2000 for "Beautiful Day" and Record of the Year in 2001 for "Walk On."
Eminem's latest, meanwhile, slipped to number two, selling 471,000 to bring the rapper's 17-day total to just over 3 million served. His previous, The Eminem Show, held the top spot for five straight weeks in June 2002 and made an encore at number one in August of that year.
Despite griping about her disappointment over the release, No Doubt's Gwen Stefani's solo debut, Love, Angel, Music, Baby, opened at seven with 309,000 copies. That tops her group's last album, Rock Steady, which debuted at nine on 255,000 copies in late 2001.
Season three American Idol winner Fantasia sold 239,000 copies of her rookie album, Free Yourself, to bow at eight. This marks the first time an Idol champ's debut failed to open atop the album charts, as previous winners Kelly Clarkson and Ruben Studdard did in 2003.
That said, Studdard's sophomore disc, I Need an Angel, also hit the charts this week at 20, marking a new low for a former Idol champ; Studdard, sidelined by bronchitis, was unable to promote his disc last week, likely hurting sales. Clay Aiken, who finished second to Studdard, proved more bankable as his Merry Christmas with Love remained strong. The disc, which opened at four last week, currently sits at 11. (Clarkson's second disc dropped this week and will make its play on next week's chart.)
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, the rest of the Top 10 were leftovers: Shania Twain's Greatest Hits at three, Destiny's Child's Destiny Fulfilled at four, Toby Keith's Greatest Hits 2 at five, Now That's What I Call Music! Vol. 17 at six, Snoop Dogg's R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece at nine and Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz's Crunk Juice squeezing into the 10 spot. With the holiday shopping season in full swing, 19 albums moved more than 100,000 copies last week.
Creed, who called its quits earlier this year, debuted at 15 with its Greatest Hits selling 158,000 copies. Jessica Simpson's Re-Joyce: The Christmas Album--ripe with such Yuletide plums as "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"--followed at 16 with 152,000 discs sold. Simpson's holiday disc also helped her 67-week-old In This Skin leap 61 spots to 64.
Despite a steep price tag, the long-awaited Nirvana box set With the Lights Out scored an impressive debut at 19 on nearly 106,000 copies sold. The four-disc (three CDs, one DVD) set includes live songs, radio performances and obscure demo tracks from the band's archive.
Bluegrass queen Alison Krauss and Union Station fiddled their way to number 31 with Lonely Runs Both Ways, while Evanescence's double-disc live CD/DVD Anywhere But Home followed at 39. Dropping in one spot behind at 40, Kenny G blew his way onto the charts with At Last...The Duets Album, on which Mr. G collaborates with Richard Marx, LeAnn Rimes and Daryl Hall, among others.
Another notable debuts included The Diplomats' Diplomatic Immunity II at 46, The Blue Collar Comedy Tour Rides Again at 50 and actor Robert Downey Jr. showing off his pipes with The Futurist at 121.
Meanwhile, on the singles chart, Snoop Dogg notched his first number one with "Drop It Like It's Hot." The track had spent the previous four weeks in the number two slot on Billboard's Hot 100.
Here's a recap of the Top 10 albums for the week ended Sunday:
1. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, U2
2. Encore, Eminem
3. Greatest Hits, Shania Twain
4. Destiny Fulfilled, Destiny's Child
5. Greatest Hits II, Toby Keith
6. Now That's What I Call Music! 17, various
7. Love, Angel, Music, Baby, Gwen Stefani
8. Free Yourself, Fantasia
9. R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece, Snoop Dogg
10. Crunk Juice, Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz