Britney Spears' new ''In the Zone'' was in a zone all its own this week. The CD debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart and sold 609,000 copies, according to SoundScan. She became the first female artist in the decade or so of SoundScan tracking to rack up four consecutive No. 1 discs.
Spears' nearest competitor, G-Unit's ''Beg for Mercy,'' sold just over half as many copies (327,000, down just 13 percent from its debut last week.). Debuting at No. 3, the self-titled CD by Blink-182 moved 313,000 units. Last week's champ, Jay-Z's ''The Black Album,'' dropped to No. 4 in its second week and sold another 288,000 copies, down a modest 37 percent from its debut. Entering the chart at No. 5 was the remixed Beatles release, ''Let It Be…Naked,'' with sales of 280,000.
The rest of the top 10 included Josh Groban's ''Closer'' (down two notches to No. 6), Tupac Shakur's ''Resurrection'' soundtrack (dropping five spots to No. 7), ''NOW That's What I Call Music! Vol. 14'' (slipping two slots to No. 8), Toby Keith's ''Shock'n Y'all'' (down 4 to No. 9), and OutKast's ''Speakerboxxx/The Love Below'' (up one to No. 10).
The week's most talked-about artist, Michael Jackson, saw his hits collection ''Number Ones'' debut at No. 13 on sales of 121,000. The album might have sold better had it not been released the same day that the new child-molestation allegations broke, but the erstwhile King of Pop still managed a stronger debut than Dave Matthews (whose ''Central Park Concert'' entered the chart at No. 14 on sales of 111,000) and Korn (whose ''Take a Look in the Mirror'' debuted at No. 19 and sold 96,000 copies).