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Groban Gets Oprah Bounce, Jordin Sparks Doesn't Fly

The Grinch might be stealing Christmas from music retailers, but thanks to Josh Groban and Oprah, there’s still some singing in Whoville. For the sales week kicked off by Super Tuesday–the release date before Thanksgiving when record labels typically schedule their big guns–the figures were abnormally bad, with only one Top 10 bow and a seven-week-old album topping the charts. Still, that album, Groban’s Noël, can thank last week’s performance on The Oprah Winfrey Show for driving it past Alicia Keys and into the number one spot.

Noël crowned the Billboard 200 by selling 405,000 copies for the week ended Sunday, according to SoundScan numbers released today.

The holiday disc, featuring Groban’s take on “Silent Night,” “O Come All Ye Faithful” and other wintery classics, originally debuted in the 10 spot in mid-October. The Oprah-powered sales surge also helped reenergize Awake, Groban’s previous album from last year. In its second week back on the charts, Awake jumped 42 spots to 146.

The Oprah Factor should be in effect on next week’s charts, as Groban and Winfrey teamed up again on Tuesday for Behind the Scenes at Oprah’s Favorite Things Show.

With Noël flying to the top, Alicia Keys’ As I Am dropped to number two on 349,000 copies, bringing her two-week tally past the 1 million mark. Though her album lost the top spot, her single “No One” headed in the right direction, climbing a notch to number one on the Hot 100.

Jordin Sparks, the season-six winner of American Idol, scored the week’s only Top 10 bow, selling 119,000 copies of her self-titled debut to open at 10. Sparks now claims the lowest-charting debut album by an Idol champ, a dubious distinction previously held by Fantasia Barrino after 2004’s Free Yourself opened at eight. Still, the daughter of former NFL player Phillippi Sparks won Idol at age 17, making her the youngest champ to date.

Elsewhere, the High School Musical 2 soundtrack, no stranger to the Top 10, enjoyed an eight-spot jump to reenter at six on 183,000 copies. The tween hit benefited from Mouse Network promos for HSM2’s DVD release next month.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, the remaining Top 10 albums were leftovers: Now That’s What I Call Music! 26 at three, Garth Brooks’ The Ultimate Hits at four, the Eagles’ Long Road Out of Eden at five, Carrie Underwood’s Carnival Ride at seven, Celine Dion’s Taking Chances at eight and Chris Brown’s Exclusive at nine.

Though Thanksgiving weekend provides one of the best sales weeks of the year, the record labels simply didn’t have product ready this time around. At one point or another, artists like Green Day, Madonna, Mary J. Blige, Nicole Scherzinger, Eve and Mariah Carey tentatively slated albums for Super Tuesday, but all of these releases were ultimately pushed back.

As it stands, Blige’s Growing Pains, out Dec. 18, is the only superstar release currently on the books to come out by the year’s end. In fact, the dearth of big releases led Rolling Stone to refer to this holiday sales season as “Black Christmas.”

Keith Urban’s Greatest Hits collection just barely missed the Top 10, selling 117,000 copies for a number 11 bow. The Aussie cowboy’s latest features two new songs and 16 past hits, including the country chart-toppers “Somebody Like You,” “Days Go By” and “You’ll Think of Me.”

MercyMe, best known for the 2003 breakthrough hit “I Can Only Imagine,” opened at 15 with All That Is Within Me. The Grammy-nominated Christian act sold nearly 84,000 copies of its latest.

OneRepublic, whose “Apologize” remix recently hit number two on the Hot 100, followed at 17 selling 75,000 copies of Dreaming Out Loud. Since singer Ryan Tedder won a Lance Bass-promoted talent search seven years ago, he’s suffered several failed record deals before Timbaland signed him to his Interscope imprint and remixed “Apologize” for his Shock Value album. Timbaland knew Tedder from his moonlighting gig as a songwriter, having penned tracks for Jennifer Lopez and Blake Lewis, among others.

Despite a four-year break between albums, Freeway returns with his sophomore release, Free at Last, selling 36,000 copies at 42. The Philly rapper got twice the brotherly love on his new album with a joint-release by Jay-Z’s Roc-a-Fella and Fiddy’s G-Unit Records. Likewise, the album features appearances by rivals Fiddy and Jadakiss, who typically would not appear on the same album.

While the film topped the holiday weekend box office, the Enchanted soundtrack entered at 48, conjuring up sales of 31,000.

RBD’s latest Latin disc, Empezar Desde Cero, sold 47 more copies than the stateside release of Amy Winehouse 2003 debut disc Frank, both selling just over 22,000 copies. The albums entered the charts at 60 and 61, respectively.

The two international acts were followed by a trio of potential holiday stocking stuffers: the This Christmas soundtrack at 65, Best of Poison: 20 Years of Rock at 66 and AC/DC’s Sight & Sound Collection box set at 73.

While the 20th anniversary deluxe reissue of U2’s The Joshua Tree didn’t make the Billboard 200, two other albums did make returns. Beyoncé’s B’Day sold 73,000 copies to reenter the charts at 19 in conjunction with the release of The Beyoncé Experience Live DVD. Likewise, with help from the film’s recent DVD release, the new Hairspray collector’s edition soundtrack reentered the charts at 89.

Overall, Super Tuesday sales were up 19 percent from the week previous but still down 18 percent compared to the same sales period last year.

Here’s a recap of the Top 10:

  1. Noël, Josh Groban
  2. As I Am, Alicia Keys
  3. Now That’s What I Call Music! 26, various
  4. The Ultimate Hits, Garth Brooks
  5. Long Road Out of Eden, the Eagles
  6. High School Musical 2 soundtrack, various
  7. Carnival Ride, Carrie Underwood
  8. Taking Chances, Celine Dion
  9. Exclusive, Chris Brown
  10. Jordin Sparks, Jordin Sparks
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