Friday, April 23, 2004 Posted: 1:47 PM EDT (1747 GMT) _
  _Suburban Chicago's Information Source

Usher No. 1 for fourth week

NEW YORK (Billboard) -- R&B singer Usher's "Confessions" has extended its winning streak on the Billboard 200 albums chart to four weeks amid a paucity of major new releases.

The LaFace/Zomba set sold 302,000 copies across the United States in the week ended April 18, according to Nielsen SoundScan data issued Wednesday. That total represents a 34 percent drop from the previous week, but leaves Usher at No. 1 by a large margin. "Confessions" has sold 2.4 million copies to date.

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

The 15th volume of the various-artists compilation "NOW That's What I Call Music!" (EMI/Universal/Sony/Zomba/Capitol) was the only other album to top 100,000 in sales for the week. Even so, sales of the set slid 56 percent to 122,000 copies, but it held steady at No. 2 on the chart as its total rose to 970,000 copies.

The week's biggest gainer was Hoobastank's "The Reason" (Island), which catapulted 15 spots to a new high No. 3 on a 6 percent gain to 74,000 copies sold. The set has sold 670,000 copies in 19 weeks on the chart. The title track hit No. 1 on Billboard's airplay-based modern rock chart, while the video is in heavy rotation on MTV, MTV2, Fuse and VH1, according to Island.

"The Reason" was 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 was the Wind-Up soundtrack "The Punisher: The Album," which leapt 54-22 in its fourth week on the chart, with sales up 22 percent to 34,000.

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

Other notable entries included the Maverick soundtrack to box office champ "Kill Bill Vol. 2," which landed at No. 58 on sales of 17,000 copies; New Zealand opera prodigy 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, Janet Jackson's "Damita Jo" (Virgin) slipped one place to No. 4; Guns N' Roses' "Greatest Hits" (Geffen) jumped four spots to No. 5; Norah Jones' "Feels Like Home" (Blue Note) slipped one to No. 6;Jessica Simpson's "In This Skin" (Columbia) fell three to No. 7; Evanescence's "Fallen" (Wind-Up) fell two to No. 8; Lil' Flip's "U Gotta Feel Me" (Sucka Free/Columbia) dipped one to No. 9; and Kanye West's "The College Dropout" (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam), rose four places to No. 10.


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