First-week sales of the Wu-Tang Clan's "Wu-Tang Forever" album were big, but not bigger than B.I.G.
The two-disc collection by the New York-based rap group burst into the No. 1 position on the national album sales chart by selling about 612,000 copies last week, ending the four-week chart-topping run of the Spice Girls' "Spice."
But the number fell short of the year's-best opening-week figure posted by the Notorious B.I.G.'s two-disc "Life After Death" album, which sold nearly 690,000 copies during its first week in stores three months ago. Still, Wu-Tang's numbers were the 10th-biggest opening week of the SoundScan era, which started in 1991.
Meanwhile, country star Tim McGraw's "Everywhere" album sold about 224,000 copies last week to debut at No. 2. Paul McCartney's "Flaming Pie," which held down the runner-up position last week, dropped to No. 8.
Here are some recent releases that are generating critical or commercial attention:
Wu-Tang Clan's "Wu-Tang Forever" (Loud). The overwhelming passion of the music and the relentless nature of the rhyming make the concept "Wu-Tang Forever" feel more like a reality than a folly.
Foo Fighters' "The Colour and the Shape" (Roswell/Capitol). Hard and soft, erratic and edgy, packed with anger, fear and foreboding, "Colour" slips fresh air into its sound as guitarists Dave Grohl and Pat Smear duel with kidlike flair.
Various Artists' "Music From and Inspired by the 'Batman & Robin' Motion Picture" (Warner Bros.). A piquant array of summer-friendly pop tunes by stars du jour, these 15 newly recorded selections represent a variety of modern styles, yet have a remarkably consistent dark tone--just right for the silver screen's Dark Knight.
Michael Jackson's "Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix" (Epic). If Jackson would settle down and hone his individual sound instead of trying to follow every current trend simultaneously, he might recapture his relevance.
God's Property From Kirk Franklin's Nu Nation's "God's Property" (B-Rite Music). This is the kind of group it takes to reinvent the field of gospel music and make it palatable--and irresistible--to a whole new generation of fans. And Franklin has the goods to be this genre's new leader.
Sinead O'Connor's "Gospel Oak" (Chrysalis/EMI). An engaging mini-album whose sweet, comforting tones are a long way from the confrontational stance of O'Connor's best-known works.
Steve Winwood's "Junction Seven" (Virgin). Joined by Lenny Kravitz, Nile Rodgers and Des'ree on key tracks, the function at "Junction" is relentlessly jubilant and romantic, but the songs on this seventh solo album aren't much to celebrate.
John Cale's "Eat/Kiss" (Hannibal), k.d. lang's "Drag" (Warner Bros.), Suga Free's "Street" (Island Black Music), Thrill Kill Cult's "A Crime for All Seasons" (Red Ant) and Changing Faces' "All Day/All Night" (Big Beat/Atlantic).
Tuesday: En Vogue's "EV3" (EastWest), Ben Harper's "The Will to Live" (Virgin), K-Ci & Jo-Jo's "Love Always" (MCA), Neil Young & Crazy Horse's "The Year of the Horse" (Reprise), Ron Sexsmith's "Other Songs" (Interscope) and Rickie Lee Jones' "Ghostyhead" (Reprise).