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The Christmas Season Rides In On Country's Back

As Billboard pointed out yesterday in their roundup of this week's best-selling albums, country continued its dominant fall. Led by Taylor Swift's Speak Now, which topped the chart for the second straight week, the top three albums on the Billboard 200 were country albums.

According to Nielsen SoundScan, Swift's juggernaut sold 320,000 copies, about a third of it's opening week tally. Jason Aldean debuted in the number 2 spot with My Kinda Party, and Sugarland's The Incredible Machine dropped one spot to number 3 in its third week.

Next week, Susan Boyle's The Gift will challenge Swift for the top spot, but if we're looking for a genre to mount an attack on country's supremacy, this week's chart suggests it's the time of the year when Christmas albums start pulling people into stores.

The season seems to have been rung in by the release of Mariah Carey's Merry Christmas II You, the sequel to her perennial best seller Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas II You debuted at number 4, and two country holiday collections, A Merry Little Christmas by Lady Antebellum and The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection, landed in the top 20.

Both those albums charted last week, but this week also saw older Christmas collections from Chris Tomlin and Andrea Bocelli and quite a few others re-enter the chart. Here's the baker's dozen of holiday-themed albums from the Billboard 200 for this week (asterisks designate an album that didn't appear on last week's chart):

4. Mariah Carey - Merry Christmas II You*
17. Lady Antebellum - A Merry Little Christmas
20. Taylor Swift - The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection
27. Chris Tomlin - Glory in the Highest: Christmas Songs of Worship*
64. Michael W. Smith - It's A Wonderful Christmas
70. Various Artists - NOW That's What I Call Christmas
87. Andrea Bocelli - My Christmas*
109. Josh Groban - Noel*
129. Michael Buble - Let It Snow!*
152. Celtic Thunder - Christmas
175. Various Artists - The 99 Most Essential Christmas Masterpieces*
176. Sheryl Crow - Home For Christmas*
191. Mannheim Steamroller - Christmas: 25th Anniversary Collection*

Two related questions: 1) the soundtrack to The Sound of Music re-entered the chart at number 101 this week. Is this a Christmas-timed rise, or is there some other occasion for the bump? And 2) will Glee's forthcoming Grinch-themed Christmas album, out next week but already selling well, break that show's streak of releases that sell well for a week and then disappear?

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