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''NOW... 4,'' with Britney Spears, remains at No. 1

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Britney Spears
Spears: Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Corbis Sygma

The compilation ”’NOW That’s What I Call Music! 4” stays at No. 1 on Billboard’s album chart for the second week in a row, selling 258,000 copies. With the fourth in the ”NOW” series holding at the top spot, this joint venture of four major record labels — Universal, Jive, Sony, and EMI — is becoming a pop phenomenon. ”They’ve done a really amazing job of establishing ‘NOW’ as a brand name,” says Wherehouse Music buyer Bob Bell. ”Consumers are getting in the habit of looking for new compilations in the series.”

A key selling point of the ”NOW” collections is that each disc gathers a bunch of recent radio hits — many of which were never available as commercial singles. (Of the 18 tracks on ”NOW 4,” for instance, 14 weren’t released as CD singles, including Macy Gray’s ”I Try” and Backstreet Boys’ ”Larger Than Life.”) That fans can get their favorite hits without shelling out $18 for each act’s entire album, Bell says, is ”absolutely a factor” in explaining the series’ big sales.

One artist helping ”NOW… 4” conquer the charts is Britney Spears, whose radio single ”(You Drive Me) Crazy” is featured on the set. And there’s more good news for pop’s ”It” girl: Her sophomore album, ”OOPS!… I Did It Again,” moved another 243,000 units this week to hold at No. 2. (”Oops” has sold more than 5 million copies since its May release.) Right on Britney’s bumper is that ”Country Grammar” cat Nelly, who nabs the No. 3 spot from Eminem. Mr. Mathers falls to No. 4, his lowest position since debuting at the top of the charts 10 weeks ago. And what’s worse, those scrappy boys from ‘N Sync — or as he calls them ”’N Stink” — are hot on his tail, moving up two spots to No. 5 on the strength of their HBO concert special last Thursday.

Rock rules the next three positions, with back to back showings by Ozzfest-ers Papa Roach (No. 6), the perennially shirtless Creed (No. 7), and Mississippi’s own 3 Doors Down (No. 8). The rap and R&B heavy ”Nutty Professor II” soundtrack holds at No. 9. And ol’ timers B.B. King and Eric Clapton move up one place to No. 10. Hey, if those guys don’t watch it, they won’t have a reason to keep singing the blues.

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