SOUND BITES Record buyers went ”Half Crazy” for Musiq, sending his ”” CD to the top of the Billboard chart in its first week. The R&B singer’s sophomore album sold 260,150 copies, according to SoundScan. The week’s other big R&B debut was Lauryn Hill‘s ”MTV Unplugged No. 2.0,” which hit the chart at No. 3. Her first release since her breakthrough ”The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” four years ago, the two-disc set sold 122,050 copies. Sandwiched between them was Celine Dion‘s ”A New Day Has Come,” making a surprising return to the No. 2 spot, up five places and 41,000 albums from last week (it sold 142,700 this week). Slipping two slots were Ashanti‘s self-titled album (No. 4, 114,900 sold) and Kenny Chesney‘s ”No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems (No. 5, 102,025 copies).
Falling 7 spots to No. 8 was last week’s No. 1, Big Tymers‘ ”Hood Rich.” The rest of the top 10 included the ”Spider-Man” soundtrack (No. 6), Sheryl Crow‘s ”C’mon, C’mon” (No. 7), ”NOW That’s What I Call Music! Vol. 9” (No. 9), and the self-titled album by Josh Groban (No. 10).
TUBE TALK With John Wayne Bobbitt severed from Fox’s ”Celebrity Boxing” lineup after a real-life fight with his wife Monday night landed him behind bars and her in the hospital, fellow feckless husband Joey Buttafuoco needed to face another contender. He’ll probably wish he were still facing Bobbitt when he’s in the ring with Fox’s replacement choice: Joanie Laurer, the pro wrestler formerly known as Chyna. (And you thought Bobbitt had been emasculated by a woman.) The first intergender ”Celebrity Boxing” match is scheduled to open the show on May 22, though for sheer entertainment value, it should be hard to top the bout between Dustin ”Screech” Diamond and Ron ”Horshack” Palillo….
Bill Maher may have been shown no love by ABC, which has been looking to cancel ”Politically Incorrect” ever since Maher’s intemperate post-Sept. 11 remarks resulted in the loss of ad dollars. (The network finally gave him the ax this week, announcing that it will replace ”PI” with a talk show to be hosted by fellow Comedy Central alum Jimmy Kimmel.) But one organization appreciates Maher’s iconoclasm. He’ll receive the President’s Award from the Los Angeles Press Club at its annual awards ceremony on June 22. Noting that even the White House told Maher to ”watch what you say,” club president Patt Morrison said in a statement, ”In their rush to defend the United States, some of Maher’s critics were denying him the exercise of the very first principle of freedom that the founders of the United States put in the Constitution: the right to free speech. It is a right not embraced by some of the foes this country is now fighting, and the Maher controversy serves to remind us once again of how vital that right is, and how fragile.” Maher responded with a statement, saying, ”In a country threatened much more by conformity than dissent, this kind of support is a welcome tonic.”…
Days after it was revealed that MSNBC’s Brian Williams has been angling for Dan Rather‘s anchor chair at CBS, the network announced at Wednesday’s upfront that Rather is stepping down — from newsmagazine ”48 Hours.” In a move aimed at drawing younger audiences, the show is moving from 10 p.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays (opposite ”Providence” and ”America’s Funniest Home Videos”) and being renamed ”48 Hours Investigates.” CBS chief Leslie Moonves said the network wanted to ”put a new spin on it, make it a bit edgier, a bit cooler.” The show is to have a younger, yet-unnamed host (Williams?). Moonves said Rather’s departure was voluntary, and that he wanted to do more stories on ”60 Minutes II.”