The real Slim Shady just stood up in a major way, debuting at the top of the latest Billboard 200 albums chart with 608,000 copies sold of his Relapse, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That’s this year’s biggest opening number by a healthy margin, leaving U2’s 484,000 bow in March far behind. Let this serve as a reality check for anyone who’s been questioning Eminem’s continued relevance in 2009: The man remains a massive force at the nation’s cash registers.

If anything, it appears the five-year wait between studio albums while Em sorted out his personal life might have actually been a good thing for Relapse‘s sales. Best Buy manager Jonathan Hart tells the Music Mix that the delay has helped bring “a lot of customers” into the Manhattan store where he works. “People weren’t sure if this guy was ever going to be back,” Hart tells the Music Mix. “It’s generated hype because of that.” Fuse TV vice president David Weier echoes this thought: “I often criticize the record business for rushing records out too soon. You’ve got to let people miss you. That’s exactly what he did this time: He stepped out of the light, away from the media, away from the attention, [and] let people wonder.”

Then again, does Marshall Mathers even give a proverbial bleep how many CDs he sells at this point in his career? “I know for a fact that he’s not doing it for the money,” Eminem’s touring DJ, the Alchemist, recently told me. “The guy’s made a lot in his life.” That he has — and I’m sure the highers-up at Interscope are nonetheless very pleased that he’s just made a bunch more. Read on after the jump for sales results on the rest of this week’s bumper crop of new releases.

Coming in at No. 2 this week was Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown with 166,000 units moved in its first full sales week, bringing the 10-day sales total up to 481,000. Kenny Chesney’s creatively titled Greatest Hits II took No. 3 with 89,000. Method Man and Redman did themselves proud at No. 4 with 63,000 of Blackout! 2. No. 5 went to Dane Cook, who sold 61,000 of his new “comedy” set, ISolated INcident. Busta Rhymes landed at No. 6 with 59,000 of his Back on My B.S.

But wait! There’s more! Taking a brief breather for familiar faces Miley Cyrus (No. 7) and Lady GaGa (No. 8), the march of new releases resumes with Tori Amos at No. 9 with 41,000 copies sold of Abnormally Attracted to Sin. (Thought of the day: Both Miley and GaGa could probably stand to listen to a little more Tori.) Next was One Tree Hill‘s Kate Voegele at No. 10, with 37,000 copies sold of A Fine Mess. Mat Kearney came in at No. 13 with 26,000 of City of Black & White. (No less an authority than Ricky Gervais has compared Kearney’s earlier work to “spoken word that sounds like Frenchhip-hop,” so…make of that what you will?) Finally, Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood sold 23,000 copies of Live From Madison Square Garden to win the No. 14 slot.

And that, folks, is how the overstuffed Memorial Day sales frame sorted out this year. What do you think of Eminem’s commercial performance? Was it higher or lower than you expected? And how about all the other albums that made it onto the chart for the first time this week? Let’s hear it, below.

UPDATE: This post originally included incorrect sales data due to a Nielsen SoundScan processing error. Method Man and Redman’s Blackout! 2 actually sold 57,000 copies (not 63,000), putting it at No. 7 (not No. 4). This shift bumped up Dane Cook (to No. 4), Busta Rhymes (to No. 5), and Miley Cyrus (to No. 6). All other sales totals and chart positions in the Top 20 remained unchanged.

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  • Green Day dominates the chart with a single weekend’s sales
  • The Alchemist preps new solo album, including Eminem collaboration
  • One Tree Hill‘s Kate Voegele on her new album, her dual identity, and the season finale

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