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"[Eminem]'s as important to the music business as Harry Potter is to the book business."
——Kevin Hawkins, Tower Records
EM-AZING RACE!
Twain, Keith, Spears, Fabolous and Ja Rule Also Bow in Top 10 as Q4 Takes Shape
Welcome to the fourth quarter. It’s about time.

In one of the biggest sales weeks of the year, Shady/Aftermath/Interscope’s Eminem takes his Encore to an impressive #1, 737k+ debut after just four or five days (depending on the retailer) in the marketplace.

Tower RecordsKevin Hawkins took time out from demanding an election recount in Ohio to enthuse: "Eminem continues to be one of the most important artists and icons in the nation. His fan base is so wide that he defies any categorization. He’s as important to the music business as Harry Potter is to the book business. And with so many big releases this week, it finally feels like the fourth quarter is truly under way."

This week’s Top 10 includes five other newcomers, with a pair of UMG Nashville country acts’ greatest hits collections leading the way in Mercury Nashville’s Shania Twain (#2) and DreamWorks Nashville’s Toby Keith (#3), riding the wave of CMA national TV exposure.

Jive/ZLG’s Britney Spears is next at #4 with her hits compilation, followed by Atlantic/Atl G’s Fabolous (#6) and Def Jam/IDJ’s Ja Rule (#7).

Holdovers Now Vol. 17 on Capitol (#5), LaFace/ZLG’s Usher (#8), Fo’ Reel/Universal’s Nelly Suit album (#9) and MCA Nashville’s George Strait (#10), giving UMG Nashville ruler Luke Lewis three in the Top 10.

Other chart debuts are registered by Bad Boy/Universal’s New Edition (#11), Universal’s Elton John (#13), Philips/Universal’s Andrea Bocelli (#17), Columbia/CRG’s Destiny’s Child (#24 after only three days at retail), Universal’s Bee Gees #1s (#25), WEA Latina’s Luis Miguel (#28), A&M’s Vanessa Carlton (#32), TVT’s Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz (#36, after leaking at retail before today’s scheduled release date) and WB’s Seal best of (#40).

The CMAs are responsible for some of the week’s largest increases, including Epic/Sony Nashville’s Gretchen Wilson (#14, +84%), Lyric Street’s Rascal Flatts (#27, +56%), WB Nashville’s Big & Rich (#23, +49%), Curb’s Tim McGraw (#19, +38%) and RLG’s Brooks & Dunn (#41, +19%).

Other substantial gains are registered by Arista/RMG’s Avril Lavigne (#35, +21%), Columbia/CRG’s Switchfoot (#39, +19%), LaFace/ZLG’s Ciara (#31, +17%) and Octone/J/RMG’s Maroon 5 (#34, +15%).

Next week, it’s all about Geffen’s Snoop Dogg, RCA’s Clay Aiken Christmas album, Capitol’s Chingy and a box set of the first four U.S. Beatles albums as well as best-ofs from Michael Jackson, Neil Young and Pearl Jam.

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What drugs will help us get there?
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