Leona Lewis

Lester Cohen/WireImage.com

OK, so maybe Simon Cowell does know what he's talking about, after all.

The Cowell-sanctioned Leona Lewis just rewrote chart history as her debut album, Spirit, opened at No. 1, making her the first solo British artist ever to have a rookie release open atop the Billboard 200.

And that's not all. Spirit's big bow also makes Lewis the first female Brit ever to debut at No. 1 and the first to reach the top in any week since Sade's Promise more than 22 years ago. Lewis' album also claimed the biggest digital sales week ever for a new artist.

Finally, Spirit, which sold 205,000 copies for the week ended Sunday, per SoundScan, is the biggest opening for a new female artist since Carrie Underwood's Some Hearts sold 315,000 debut copies back in 2005.

Prior to Spirit, Joss Stone held the record for the highest debut for a female Brit with a No. 2 bow for Introducing Joss Stone, and Amy Winehouse had the highest rookie bow with Back to Black at No. 7.

At radio, the 23-year-old Londoner also hit the record books two weeks ago when her the single "Bleeding Love" topped the Hot 100. This made her only the sixth female Brit to accomplish this feat, last accomplished by Kim Wilde in '87, and only the third to do so with a debut single.

"Bleeding Love," already the U.K.'s best-selling single of 2007, returned to the top of the Hot Digital Songs chart this week, moving another 223,000 copies and pushing it past the 1.1 million-copy mark in the States.

Lewis first made headlines as the premier contestant on The X Factor, Cowell's U.K. version of American Idol. After walloping the competition, Lewis released her victory single, a cover of Kelly Clarkson's "A Moment Like This," and set a Guinness world record by selling 50,000 downloads in just 30 minutes and nearly 600,000 copies in the first week.

In the first of its kind, Cowell and Clive Davis signed the Mariah-meets-Whitney wunderkind to a joint worldwide recording deal. Spirit made its debut in the U.K. last November, selling more than 376,000 first-week copies, making it the fastest-selling debut (and fourth all-around) in the country's history.

"Leona Lewis will not be an overnight sensation," trumpeted Clive Davis in a statement Wednesday. "She is the real deal and this is just the beginning of a long and illustrious career."

Added Cowell: "What Leona has achieved is simply incredible. This is the hardest market to crack and for her debut album to go in at No. 1 is unbelievable.”

Country crooner James Otto scored the week's next best bow with Sunset Man (58,000 copies at No. 3)—just behind last week's chart topper, George Strait's Troubadour (59,000).

Ray J's All I Feel, featuring the top-five hit "Sexy Can I," gave the singer a career-best No. 7 bow (39,000). Brandy's baby brother, also known for his candid-camera antics with Kim Kardashian, previously peaked at No. 21 with 2001's This Ain't a Game.

Christian rockers P.O.D. landed the fourth and final top 10 debut with When Angels & Serpents Dance (34,000 at No. 9).

With its physical CD release, Nine Inch Nails' Ghosts I-IV (first made available digitally last month) scared its way to No. 14, while Marie Digby's Unfold opened at No. 29. Meanwhile, Nick Cave rose to No. 64 with Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! and the Breeders climbed to No. 98 with Mountain Battles.

To recap, the week's top 10 albums were as follows:

1. Spirit, Leona Lewis
2. Troubadour, George Strait
3. Sunset Man, James Otto
4. Now That's What I Call Music! 27, various
5. Accelerate, R.E.M.
6. Alvin & the Chipmunks soundtrack, various
7. All I Feel, Ray J
8. Trilla, Rick Ross
9. When Angels & Serpents Dance, P.O.D.
10. Welcome to the Dollhouse, Danity Kane

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