When an album contains hit firepower by such bestsellers as OutKast, Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson, it's easy to see why it goes straight to the top of the chart.
In fact, volume 16 in the "Now That's What I Call Music!" series of pop compilations did so well in its first week in stores that it had the fifth-biggest first-week sales of 2004: 504,000 copies.
The album, which also includes hits by Hoobastank, D12 and country newcomer Gretchen Wilson, led a flurry of new releases in the Top 20, Nielsen SoundScan reported Wednesday. The others are New York rock group Taking Back Sunday (which finished No. 3 with sales of 164,000), rappers Terror Squad (No. 7, sales of 97,000), dancehall artist Kevin Lyttle (No. 8, sales of 84,000), country singer Terri Clark (No. 14, sales of 62,000) and veteran rock band Pearl Jam (No. 18, sales of 52,000).
The largest first-week total of the year was the 1.1 million registered by Usher's "Confessions," the year's biggest seller at 5.1 million since March.
Ashlee Simpson, whose debut album, "Autobiography," entered at No. 1 last week, fell to No. 2 after selling 270,000 more copies to total 670,000. The CD gives the Simpson family two albums in the Top 40. Jessica Simpson's "In This Skin," which has been on the chart for nearly a year, is No. 32. Its sales to date: 2.3 million.
On the rock front, critical favorites are showing uneven results. Newcomer Franz Ferdinand continues to show promise. The group's self-titled debut album, No. 46 this week, is approaching the 400,000 sales mark. The Hives' new CD, however, fell to No. 57 in its second week on the charts, with total sales of just 54,000.