Edited By Jonathan Cohen. April 21, 2004, 10:45 AM ET

Usher Holds His Ground At No. 1

Usher's "Confessions" has extended its streak of weeks atop The Billboard 200 to four. The LaFace/Zomba set sold 302,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That total represents a 34% slide from the previous week, but leaves Usher at No. 1 by a large margin.

Overall U.S. album sales were down about 22% from the previous week to 10.4 million units, about 22% lower than the comparable week last year. Sales for the year are about 8% ahead of 2003.

The 15th volume of the various-artists compilation "NOW That's What I Call Music!" (EMI/Universal/Sony/Zomba/Capitol) is the only other album to top 100,000 in sales for the week. Even so, sales of the set slid 56% to 122,000 copies, but it holds steady at No. 2 on the chart.

The week's biggest gainer is Hoobastank's "The Reason" (Island), which catapults 15 spots to No. 3 on a 6% gain to 74,000 copies sold. The set has sold 670,000 copies in 19 weeks on the chart.

"The Reason" is the only newcomer to the top 10 this week, and one of only two albums in the top 30 to post a sales gain. The other is the Wind-Up soundtrack "The Punisher: The Album," which leaps 54-22 in its fourth week on the chart, with sales up 22% to 34,000.

The Billboard 200's top debut is Sugarcult's "Palm Trees and Power Lines" (Fearless/Artemis), coming in at No. 46 on 22,000 copies sold. It's the band's best showing on the chart; its 2001 debut, "Start Static" (Ultimatum/Artemis), peaked at No. 194.

Other notable entries include the Maverick soundtrack to "Kill Bill Vol. 2," which lands at No. 58 on sales of 17,000 copies; New Zealand teenager Hayley Westenra's debut "Pure" (Decca) at No. 70 (13,000 copies); and guitar whiz Joe Satriani's "Is There Love in Space" (Sony), docking at No. 80 (12,000 copies).

Inside a largely unchanged top 10, Guns N' Roses' "Greatest Hits" (Geffen) makes a 9-5 upward move despite a 22% drop to sales of 69,000 copies. Rebounding into the upper echelon is Kanye West's "The College Dropout" (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam), which is up four spots to No. 10 on sales of 63,000 copies, 18% below the previous week.

Rounding out the top 10 are Janet Jackson's "Damita Jo" (Virgin, No. 4), Norah Jones' "Feels Like Home" (Blue Note, No. 6), Jessica Simpson's "In This Skin" (Columbia, No. 7), Evanescence's "Fallen" (Wind-Up, No. 8) and Lil' Flip's "U Gotta Feel Me" (Sucka Free/Columbia, No. 9).

-- Troy Carpenter, N.Y.

News item thanks to Jon Voslo

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