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Springsteen rolls some 'Magic' numbers

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When Bruce Springsteen did an extended live set on the Today show recently, the normally promotion-shy rocker quipped, “I must really want to sell some records bad to be up this early singing these songs… It’s a little desperate, but it’s all right.” Well, desperation paid off: His new album, Magic, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard/Soundscan chart with 335,000 copies sold. That’s not as big a debut as the entry for his last album with the E Street Band, The Rising; that debuted five years ago with 525,000 units. But it is an improvement on his last “solo” album of original material, Devils & Dust, which bowed with 222,000 two years ago. It didn’t hurt that he was able to pull the best reviews he’s had in years out of the hat… and with a tour just getting started (and an Album of the Year Grammy nomination and probable win in the cards), Magic should have a good shelf life.

The week’s second-best bow, at No. 3, belonged to Matchbox Twenty, who released their first product as a band in five years with Exile on Mainstream. Whether their 131,000 sales tally was strong or disappointing depends on how you look at it: That’s a hefty first-week total for a greatest hits album, which normally doesn’t create a lot of pre-release fervor. On the other hand, this collection included six new songs, or about a half-album’s worth of fresh material, so a bigger core fan base turnout might have been expected. Rob Thomas is expected to complete a second solo album before Matchbox goes back into the studio for a completely new record, so his priorities may lie somewhere other than committing to keeping what group momentum there is going.

Seventeen-year-old rap sensation Soulja Boy got some of the worst reviews of the year for his freshman effort, souljaboytellum.com. But thanks to a single, “Crank That (Soulja Boy),” that’s spent four weeks on top of the Hot 100, he managed to sell 117,000 copies of his debut anyway. It might’ve done even better if 1.3 million people hadn’t already bought the single as a digital download. The big question: How many more song or album titles can he manage to conveniently work his moniker into?

Not far behind — and possibly with more of a credible future — is another newcomer, R&B singer J. Holiday, whose Back of My ‘Lac sold 105,000 to enter at No. 5.

Other debuts of note: Annie Lennox’s Songs of Mass Destruction at No. 9, with 78,000 (about half of what her last album bowed with in 2003); Trey Songz’ sophomore effort at No. 11 and 73,000; Faith Hill’s best-of and an all-new set from Brooks & Dunn, separated by only 300 units and both rounding out to 69,000 in a near-tie at Nos. 12 and 13; John Fogerty’s very well-reviewed Revival, at No. 14 with 65,000; Dashboard Confessional, at No. 18 with 48,000; Cross Canadian Ragweed, selling 23,000 for No. 30; and a multi-disc best-of from Bob Dylan, in at No. 36 with 20,000.

Healthy holdovers included a couple of core country acts: Rascal Flatts fell from No. 1 to No. 2 with 169,000, and Reba’s duets project hung in well, selling 80,000 and slipping only from No. 6 to No. 8 in week three. The other holdovers in the top 10 were Keyshia Cole at No. 6 (94,000 for the week), Kanye West at No. 7 (92,000), and High School Musical 2 at No. 10 (77,000).

Next week, Kid Rock may or may not land on top with Rock N Roll Jesus, though, with a 60 Minutes appearance in his pocket and a lot of fresh tour publicity, Springsteen has a chance at keeping his crown. Kid Rock’s will be the only new release debuting in the six-figure range, with fresh discs from Jennifer Lopez, LeAnn Rimes, Alter Bridge, and a Sara Evans best-of all expected to bow unremarkably in the mid-five figures, well below their past averages.

But those last five words could apply to just about any returning chart veterans, as sales for this past week were down almost 15 percent compared to the same week last year, pretty much akin to the downward trend for 2007 as a whole. Hey, Bruce: Got any magic tricks the rest of the industry can borrow?

Seventeen-year-old rap sensation Soulja Boy got some of the worst reviews of the year for his freshman effort, souljaboytellum.com. But thanks to a single, “Crank That (Soulja Boy),” that’s spent four weeks on top of the Hot 100, he managed to sell 117,000 copies of his debut anyway. It might’ve done even better if 1.3 million people hadn’t already bought the single as a digital download. The big question: How many more song or album titles can he manage to conveniently work his moniker into?

Not far behind — and possibly with more of a credible future — is another newcomer, R&B singer J. Holiday, whose Back of My ‘Lac sold 105,000 to enter at No. 5.

Other debuts of note: Annie Lennox’s Songs of Mass Destruction at No. 9, with 78,000 (about half of what her last album bowed with in 2003); Trey Songz’ sophomore effort at No. 11 and 73,000; Faith Hill’s best-of and an all-new set from Brooks & Dunn, separated by only 300 units and both rounding out to 69,000 in a near-tie at Nos. 12 and 13; John Fogerty’s very well-reviewed Revival, at No. 14 with 65,000; Dashboard Confessional, at No. 18 with 48,000; Cross Canadian Ragweed, selling 23,000 for No. 30; and a multi-disc best-of from Bob Dylan, in at No. 36 with 20,000.

Healthy holdovers included a couple of core country acts: Rascal Flatts fell from No. 1 to No. 2 with 169,000, and Reba’s duets project hung in well, selling 80,000 and slipping only from No. 6 to No. 8 in week three. The other holdovers in the top 10 were Keyshia Cole at No. 6 (94,000 for the week), Kanye West at No. 7 (92,000), and High School Musical 2 at No. 10 (77,000).

Next week, Kid Rock may or may not land on top with Rock N Roll Jesus, though, with a 60 Minutes appearance in his pocket and a lot of fresh tour publicity, Springsteen has a chance at keeping his crown. Kid Rock’s will be the only new release debuting in the six-figure range, with fresh discs from Jennifer Lopez, LeAnn Rimes, Alter Bridge, and a Sara Evans best-of all expected to bow unremarkably in the mid-five figures, well below their past averages.

But those last five words could apply to just about any returning chart veterans, as sales for this past week were down almost 15 percent compared to the same week last year, pretty much akin to the downward trend for 2007 as a whole. Hey, Bruce: Got any magic tricks the rest of the industry can borrow?

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