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Wind-up’s Evanescence goes #6-3 on a 6% sales hike, while Shady-Aftermath-Interscope rapper 50 Cent inches up from #5-4 on a 9% gain.

DOUBLE DOSE OF DIVAS

#1 Ashanti and #2 Beyonce Rule Retail for the Second Week in a Row
It may be the dog days of summer, but the dueling divas continue to dominate the upper reaches of the HITS Top 50, although the numbers are down—way down—in general.

Ashanti’s Murder Inc./IDJ sophomore effort, Chapter II, remains at #1 in its second week, followed in the #2 spot—right where it landed a week ago—by Beyonce’s Columbia/CRG solo bow, Dangerously in Love, in its third week on the chart.

This is where we’d ordinarily put our retail quote, but we couldn’t scare up anyone from their vacation homes to tell us either that (a) the weather was too nice, or (b) Hurricane Claudette was raging as the reason this week’s sales were so tepid. Whatever the reason, people stayed away from record stores in droves, with only the two aforementioned albums topping the 100k mark, compared to eight at the same time last year, when the chart was topped by Nellyville’s 300k-plus. Damn.

The following half-dozen slots are inhabited by the same six album that appeared as #3-8 on the previous chart, with only their relative positions changed. Wind-up’s Evanescence goes #6-3 on a 6% sales hike; Shady/Aftermath/Interscope rapper 50 Cent inches up from #5-4 on a 9% gain; Maverick’s Michelle Branch drops two spots to #5 in week two and J’s Luther Vandross slips from #3-6, with Elektra/EEG headbangers Metallica (#7-8) and Blue Note’s Norah Jones (#8-7) trading places.

The two newcomers to the Top 10 are Capitol/EMI’s Trace Adkins hits collection (quick, name one), which makes its debut at #9, and Virgin’s (and Tommy Mottola’s) Latin diva Thalia, who bows in the 10th slot.

The only double-digit increases were registered by a pair of veterans, as WSM’s Cher career retrospective shimmies from #18-12 on a 17% increase, and UTV’s Jimmy Buffett sails from #39-31 on a 13% jump. Yup, a lotta people visited Margaritaville last week.

Meanwhile, WB’s Linkin Park (#14), Capitol’s Coldplay (#22), Epic/Interscope’s Audioslave (#23), A&M/Interscope’s Black Eyed Peas (#27), Columbia/CRG’s Train (#29) and Daylight/Epic’s Good Charlotte (#33) all posted modest gains.

Next week, DTP/Capitol St. Louis hip-hopper Chingy should score a six-figure sales debut, with So So Def/Arista’s Da Brat, Def Jam/IDJ’s Keith Murray, P. Diddy’s first Bad Boy/Universal release, the star-studded Bad Boys II soundtrack, and Epic soul diva Macy Gray also hitting the charts.

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