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"If you want my two bits, the 50 Cent and Norah stories continue to amaze. There’s just no end in sight for either of them at this point."
——Homer’s Rick Galusha

THESE TRYIN’ TIMES

A.F.I. and Killer Mike Bow in the Top 10, While Norah’s on a Roll, but 50 Cent Keeps Selling
As the clock winds down to the first installment of a real-life "Bombs Over Baghdad," this week’s chart is still all about the money. That’s Shady/Aftermath/Interscope rap monster 50 Cent, who maintains his stranglehold on the top spot as a leading candidate to join the first USO tour to entertain the troops. Right behind him at #2 is Blue Note’s Grammy phenom Norah Jones, who continues to reap the benefits from her awards sweep last month.

"If you want my two bits, the 50 Cent and Norah stories continue to amaze," enthused retailer Rick Galusha of Homer’s from the Orlando Marriott just before he got the bill for all the adult movies he watched during NARM. "There’s just no end in sight for either of them at this point."

Meanwhile, DreamWorks Goth-punks A.F.I. and Columbia rapper Killer Mike bowed in the Top 10 at #7 and #10, respectively. The Top 10 is rounded out by Jive’s R. Kelly (#3), Open Wide/Monument/Columbia Presidential critics Dixie Chicks (#4), Wind-up Daredevil rockers Evanescence (#5), Epic/Sony Music Soundtrax’s Chicago (#6, and building momentum as the Academy Awards approach), Lava/Atlantic’s Kid Rock (#8) and Elektra rapper Fabolous (#9).

"A.F.I. and Killer Mike were real pleasant surprises this week, with both selling very well," added Galusha. "Though, as hostilities heat up in the Middle East, I promise to avoid the use of such terms as ‘exploding,’ ‘shooting to the top,’ ‘it’s the bomb’ and ‘apocalypse now.’"

A second DreamWorks act, R&B group Blackstreet, bowed at #15, with Virgin’s Ben Harper (#20), Capitol’s Everclear (#26) and Righteous Babe’s Ani DeFranco (#33) the week’s other charting debuts.

Epic/Interscope’s Audioslave is proving to be a force to be reckoned with, as it rolls from #26 to #19, powered by radio and MTV play, and nearly catching Capitol’s Coldplay (#14) and Aware/Columbia’s John Mayer (#16—while his live album is at #44).

Double-digit increases were registered by the Chicago soundtrack (+10%), VP/Atlantic dancehall toaster Sean Paul (#12, +17%) and Universal’s 3 Doors Down (#39, +11%).

Next week, God willin’, Linkin Park and Celine Dion will hit retail…hard.

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