By Simon Vozick-Levinson
Updated March 18, 2009 at 10:23 PM EDT

Conventional wisdom says that Kelly Clarkson is currently in the middle of a triumphant comeback from the fizzle that was 2007’s My December. Sure enough, her new one, All I Ever Wanted, just debuted at No. 1 on this week’s Billboard chart after selling 255,000 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That’s a strong opening, 2009’s second biggest yet after the 484,000 that U2 racked up the week before. But it’s worth pausing for a moment to note that this is actually somewhat less than the 291,000 units that My December moved in week 1. You can say that sales don’t really matter, or that everyone’s selling fewer CDs these days, and both of those points are more than fair. But My December was judged primarily on its sales record. The whole rap against that album was that it allegedly wasn’t “commercial” enough — as if singer-songwriter confessions and Evanescence-style power chords were the most perplexing left turns a pop star could take. Fact is, there’s no shame in having between 200,000 and 300,000 reliable CD-buying fans. Maybe the people who expected Clarkson to do mega-huge numbers every time were the unrealistic ones all along.

Other noteworthy chart debuts this week came from The-Dream, who sold 151,000 copies of Love vs. Money (which I think is a terrific pop album, though our reviewer didn’t agree); J. Holiday, with 55,000 of Round 2; Chris Cornell, who sold just 26,000 of his unexpected R&B experiment Scream; New Found Glory, with 23,000 of Not Without a Fight; and the second installment of the Punk Goes Pop compilation series, with 21,000.