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Next week, get ready for a full-on rap battle between Geffen’s The Game and Steve Rifkind’s SRC/Universal Motown discovery Akon for the top spot on the chart.

NOW AND FOREVER

Now 23 Tops Album Chart, Groban, Urban, Sugarland, Jim Jones, Matthews and Bocelli Bow
The number 23 not only refers to a famous psalm, it’s also the amount of Now That’s What I Call Music albums to have hit the charts since the inception of the popular hits compilation.

The latest edition’s on John Ingrassia’s Sony BMG Commercial Music Group, and it debuts at #1 on the HITS Top 50 this week, with a total of 331k.

143/Reprise crooner Josh Groban’s Awake arouses 271k first-week buyers for #2, slightly over 1,000 more than recovering Capitol Nashville country star Keith Urban’s Love, Pain & the whole crazy thing.

Luke LewisMercury Nashville country-pop duo Sugarland is up next, with Enjoy the Ride sparking up some 211k in sales, while last week’s chart-topping Disney Records Hannah Montana soundtrack breaks the hegemony of newcomers with a #5 finish.

Koch rapper Jim Jones hustles to a #6 debut, just ahead of Cash Money/Universal Motown Dirty South rappers Birdman & Lil’ Wayne at #7.

Arista/RMG American Idol country superstar Carrie Underwood remains undeterred by Faith Hill’s (feigned?) disbelief at her winning the CMA Best Female award, moving from #20-8, with a very handsome 62% rise over the previous week.

Jive/ZLG’s Justin Timberlake (#9) and RCA/RMG’s debuting Dave Matthews Band best-of CD/DVD (#10) round out the Top 10.

Other newcomers include Decca/Universal ClassicsAndrea Bocelli live album (#11), RCA/RMG’s Foo Fighters acoustic in-concert set Skin & Bones (#20), blues vets J.J. Cale and Eric Clapton’s Reprise album The Road to Escondido (#28), Rhino’s Now take-off Only Hits (#36), Sony’s Now Christmas Vol. 3 (#39) and Strange Music/MSC rapper Tech N9ne (#47).

Aside from Underwood, the CMAs boosted a number of country titles to double-digit gains, including Lyric Street’s Rascal Flatts (#25-18, +47%), MCA Nashville’s George Strait (#22, +25%) and the same label's Josh Turner (#38-30, +82%).

Others experiencing upward mobility are Epic’s The Fray (#26, +11%), Disney’s Cheetah Girls 2 (#38, +12%) and High School Musical (#48, +27%), as well as Capitol’s Best New Artist Grammy hopeful Corinne Bailey Rae (#50, +21%).

Next week, get ready for a full-on rap battle between Geffen’s The Game and Steve Rifkind’s SRC/Universal Motown discovery Akon for the top spot on the chart.

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