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"It was definitely the biggest record of the year for the Wherehouse stores. It just crushed all expectations."
——Violet Brown, Trans World/Wherehouse

USHER LOOKS LIKE A MILLION

Soul Star Tops List of Newcomers, Including Now 15, Guns N' Roses, Carl Thomas and N.E.R.D.
Soul crooner Usher came in like a lion this week, as his former Arista label went out very unlike a lamb.

Thanking executive producer (and former label head) Antonio "L.A." Reid "for the guidance you have provided through my career" and for "being an intrinsic part of my success," on the album’s liner notes, the soul star’s Confessions (now on LaFace/ZLG) slammed into the top spot on the HITS album chart, with 1.09 million in sales.

That makes it the highest-debuting album of the year, beating out Norah Jones, who bowed in February with 1.03 million in first-week sales. In fact, it’s the largest seven days since NSYNC’s Celebrity did some 1.9 million in July 2001.

Trans World/Wherehouse Urban expert Violet Brown was feeling Usher’s "Burn" along with every other retailer: "I knew it was going to be super-huge, but over a million… Wow, this brings some life back into the business. It was definitely the biggest record of the year for the Wherehouse stores. It just crushed all expectations. I mean, you can’t get away from ‘Yeah’… it’s so infectious. Even I can dance to it."

But that’s not the only news. In all, five of the top six albums are debuts, with EMI’s Now 15 (#2), Geffen’s Guns N' Roses best-of (#3), Bad Boy/Universal’s Carl Thomas (#4) and Virgin’s N.E.R.D. (#6). Only Blue Note’s Norah Jones, dislodged from her #1 spot after six weeks, broke the new-release hegemony at #5.

Added Brown: "N.E.R.D. had a solid start, but I fully expect this record to grow and be around for a long while. The set-up on the Carl Thomas was really good. They started working this record quite a long time ago. Puffy was doing all kinds of events for the record. It all helped."

The rest of the Top 10 was rounded out by Wind-up’s perennial rockers Evanscence (#7), Columbia/CRG multimedia tuna queen Jessica Simpson (#8), Roc-A-Fella/IDJ’s Kanye West (#9) and BNA/RLG’s hat-wearing Kenny Chesney.

Other chart newcomers included Columbia/CRG’s Cypress Hill (#17), Koch’s Master P (#22), Universal’s Pastor Troy (#25), Elektra/EEG’s Knoc-Turn’al (#27), Wind-up’s The Punisher soundtrack (#31) and Capitol’s Aussie garage-rockers The Vines (#33).

Double-digit increses were registered by Island/IDJ’s Hoobastank (#25-20, +24%), G Unit/Interscope’s G-Unit (+13%), Elektra/EEG’s Jet (+10%), Columbia/CRG’s Beyoncé (+10%) and Capitol’s Yellowcard (+11%).

Next week, make way for the debut of Janet’s Damita Jo. Can she top Usher? Only her gold sunburst breast medallion knows for sure.

Said Brown: "When everybody in the world knows you have a record coming, that means something. Everybody has known since the Super Bowl that a Janet Jackson record was coming right now. I think even people that aren’t necessarily Janet fans will want to hear it."

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