Holiday cheer over for 'Noel'; Blige at No. 1


We've undecked the halls, composted the mistletoe and holly and chucked the stockings back into the attic with care.

And it's season's fleetings for holiday albums.

After a record-setting five weeks at No. 1, Josh Groban's "Noel" falls to third place week but begins its descent as the only album to hit the 3 million-unit mark in 2007, topping out at 3.7 million. The once and current queen of the Billboard 200 is Mary J. Blige, who scores her fourth chart-topper with "Growing Pains."

The R&B mainstay's disc, which has moved more than 830,000 copies in two weeks, is the 36th No. 1 album of the year. That's a half-dozen fewer No. 1s than in 2006.

As holiday-themed sets begin hibernation, a number of young-skewing acts redeem gift-card bumps. Among them: Keyshia Cole's "Just Like You," which jumps 15 notches to No. 16; Kanye West's "Graduation," with a 16-rung climb to No. 30; and OneRepublic's "Dreaming Out Loud," an 18-place leaper to No. 31.

Then there are those youngsters who exchanged some freshly unwrapped CDs for what they really wanted. Say, giving back that Celine Dion album that the uninformed matriarch thought would be just perfect for her 13-year-old granddaughter in exchange for Paramore's "Riot!" which moves up 20 spots to No. 25.

This week's most notable new release won't make a grand entrance on next week's chart. Radiohead's "In Rainbows" enters the Billboard 200 early at No. 156 courtesy of street-date violation sales.

Total album sales were 14.5 million units for the week ending Dec. 30, down 43.2% from last week's Christmas-fueled session but up 2.4% from the final frame of 2006.

After a pair of holiday delays, Nielsen SoundScan numbers return to their normal Wednesday release date next week.

Billboard analyst Keith Caulfield contributed to this report.
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