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On the charts: Whitney returns, and the Insane Clown Posse never went away

September 9, 2009 | 12:04 pm

Whitney_epa

The onslaught of year-end releases has begun. Whitney Houston, perhaps the most talked-about comeback of the year, debuts atop the U.S. pop charts, returning to the No. 1 spot with her best sales week since Niselen SoundScan began tracking data back in 1991.

Her "I Look to You" sold 304,000 copies following its Aug. 31 release -- a day earlier than the usual Tuesday release day in order to remain eligible for the upcoming Grammy Awards. Of course, Houston's biggest hits came prior to 1991, but the sales number is a good sign for the artist in this depressed market. Even while not making the first week impact of an Eminem, the 304,000 tally is a significant bump over her first-week SoundScan numbers for 2002's "Just Whitney," which Billboard tells us bowed at the top after selling 205,000 copies. 

But Houston is still going to need a hit for sustained sales success throughout the holiday season. Thus far, the title track hasn't reached the top 50 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart, and her more recent single, the swift retro cut "Million Dollar Bill," has yet to penetrate the big chart. Nevertheless, "I Look to You" is Houston's first album to debut at No. 1 since 1987's "Whitney" topped the chart when it was released.

A run-down of other chart notables below:

No. 2. Miley Cyrus, "The Time of Our Lives" EP. This seven-song CD, largely a promotional item for Miley's clothing line with Wal-Mart, is proving to be a hot little seller. Fans and parents don't seem turned off by Miley's brief pole-dancing turn, as the set, in its first full week of release, sold 153,000 copies, giving it a total of 215,000 copies. There's plenty of other Miley to go around on the chart too, as her soundtrack to "Hannah Montana: The Movie" is at No. 14, having sold more than 1.4 million copies to date.

No. 3. Trey Songz, "Ready." The third album from the R&B artist-producer is the second-largest debut of the week. It sold more than 130,000 copies to enter at No. 3. It's a slight sales bump from his 2007 effort,  "Trey Day," in which the R. Kelly-like singer entered with 73,000 copies sold.

No. 4. Insane Clown Posse, "Bang! Pow! Boom!" Still around, and still selling consistently, the Insane Clown Posse brings out its faithful fan base with each release. The hip-hop knuckleheads from Detroit run one of the tightest businesses around, feeding its fan base with new products, ranging from board games to lunchboxes to its own festival (the semi-annual Gathering), and the latest effort even sold a little more than the act's 2007 release, "The Tempest," opening with 50,000 copies sold. "The Tempest," for instance, bowed at No. 20 with closer to 33,000 first-week copies sold.

No. 5. Colbie Caillat, “Breakthrough.” The cheery singer-songwriter is able to stay at the top of the charts in her second week. After debuting last week at No. 1 with more than 105,000 copies sold, the local girl slips to No. 5, selling about 47,000 copies. That brings her to more than 153,000 for the two-week span. Her single “Fallin’ for You” was at No. 18 heading into the sales week.

No. 6. Chevelle, "Sci-Fi Crimes." The band sold less than its 2007 effort, "Vena Sera," did in its first week, yet had a much higher chart debut. Such is the way of the world, when any sort of act with any brand recognition can easily land a top 10 album (see Third Eye Blind). The Illinois-bred rockers sold 45,000 copies this week, down from the 62,000 first week copies "Vena Sera" sold when it landed on the charts. 

Next week, things get a little confusing. With the media obsessed with Beatles sales numbers at the moment, expect plenty of pieces in the coming days discussing the continued life -- or lack thereof -- of the CD. Yet Billboard's main chart will house only the boxed sets, as the individual reissues will be confined to the catalog charts, or Billboard's "comprehensive" tally, which houses both catalog and new releases.

But don't expect the Fab Four to bow at No. 1, as there's a little album from Jay-Z to contend with.

--Todd Martens

Photo: Whitney Houston. Credit: EPA

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