NEW YORK (Variety) – Record buyers were enchanted with R&B singer Ashanti this week, sending her self-titled debut release straight to the top of the pop album charts and cementing the dominance of Universal Music Group.
“Ashanti,” on Universal label Island Def Jam, sold more than 500,000 copies during its first week in stores, according to SoundScan data. That marked the best performance among no fewer than seven Universal releases in the top 10, including albums from Jay-Z, Avant and Ludacris.
Three of those records came from IDJ, which has claimed a market share of more than 9 percent year to date. Label chief Lyor Cohen attributes the success to paying closer attention to fewer records each year compared with its rivals.
“We are not in the commodity business,” Cohen said. “We view this as a business driven by art, secondly marketed and lastly promoted.”
Doing her best to crack the Universal hegemony was Tweet, a rising urban star on Elektra Records and protege of multiplatinum rapper Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott.
The chanteuse, who made waves recently with a racy performance on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” bowed at No. 3 with “Southern Hummingbird,” selling just under 195,000 copies — one of the strongest first-album openings for an R&B singer in recent memory.
Last week’s No. 1, Celine Dion’s “New Day Has Come” (Epic), eased down to second place as sales slipped more than 50 percent. Still, the French-Canadian diva’s second-week tally of more than 260,000 units sold brings “Day” close to platinum territory.