It wasn't even close. Eminem was 2002's top selling album artist, according to figures released Thursday by SoundScan. Through Dec. 22, Slim's ''The Eminem Show'' was the year's biggest disc, selling 7.4 million copies. He also clocked in with the year's fifth-place record, the ''8 Mile'' soundtrack. Coming in second for the year was Nelly's ''Nellyville,'' with sales of 4.8 million. Newcomer Avril Lavigne sold 3.9 million copies of her debut, ''Let Go,'' to land in third place. At No. 4 for the year to date was the Dixie Chicks' ''Home,'' which has sold 3.4 million discs this year.
Rounding out the top 10 were Pink's ''M!ssundaztood'' (No. 6), Ashanti's self-titled debut (No. 7), Alan Jackson's ''Drive'' (No. 8), the ''O Brother, Where Art Thou'' soundtrack (No. 9), and Shania Twain's ''Up!'' (No. 10), which has been No. 1 on Billboard's album chart since its release five weeks ago.
The numbers for these artists marked a rare moment of holiday cheer for the record industry, which saw its second straight year of declining sales in 2002. According to the SoundScan figures, sales overall were about 624 million albums through Dec. 22, down 9 percent from a year ago.