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Sugarland, outsold by Michael Jackson, tops the albums chart

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You know we’ve hit the late-summer commercial doldrums when a chart like the latest Billboard 200 rolls in. Sugarland takes No. 1 with Live on the Inside, a punnily-titled live CD/DVD that was sold exclusively at Wal-Mart. The number of shoppers who picked it up? Just 76,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan. No offense meant to Sugarland — that’s a perfectly fine number for a set of concert recordings that’s available at only one retailer, but it wouldn’t have been a chart-topper in almost any other week.

Sales were so slow that even Michael Jackson’s Number Ones, the greatest-hits set that keeps outperforming the Billboard 200’s No. 1, moved only 98,000 units, the least it’s managed in any week since Jackson’s shocking death made it an overnight best-seller. (Say it with me now: Even though Number Ones sold 22,000 more copies than the Sugarland album, it’s not eligible for the flagship Billboard 200 chart because it was released too long ago.) That brings Number Ones to six non-consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Top Comprehensive Albums chart (which counts catalog albums alongside new ones), the longest any Jackson release has stayed there since Bad 22 years ago.

There were actually quite a few other new entries on the Billboard 200 this week, though none of them sold especially well. The self-titled debut from glossy Nashville quartet Gloriana came in at No. 3 with 44,000. Kidz Bop 16, truly the only album on the market for those interested in hearing over-caffeinated children shout the lyrics to Kanye West and Nickelback songs, managed 34,000 for a No. 10 bow. Down at No. 12, Detroit R&B crooner K’Jon‘s major-label debut found 33,000 fans. Modest Mouse’s odds-and-sods collection No One’s First, and You’re Next made it to No. 15 with 27,000. And American Idol: Season 8 — The 5 Song EP, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like and was another Wal-Mart exclusive, landed at No. 17 with 24,000.

Any thoughts on these fairly uninspiring sales rankings? Don’t despair — this year’s fourth-quarter event releases (hello, Mr. Carter!) are just around the corner…

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