If Jay-Z really is retiring, he's not going away quietly. His ''The Black Album,'' which slipped to No. 4 last week, returned to the top of the Billboard album chart on sales of 260,000, according to SoundScan, down just 10 percent from a week ago. His only serious challenger was Gwen Stefani; No Doubt's ''The Singles 1992-2003'' debuted in second place, selling nearly 252,000 copies. Last week's champ, Britney Spears' ''In The Zone,'' was third with 251,000 CDs, a whopping 59 percent drop during a week when holiday shoppers gave most top-10 albums a sales boost.
Hilary Duff, for instance, vaulted from No. 18 to No. 4 and sold another 224,000 copies of ''Metamorphosis,'' up 132 percent. ''NOW That's What I Call Music! Vol. 14'' jumped from No. 8 to No. 5 on sales of 220,000. Toby Keith's ''Shock'n Y'All'' made a similar three-rung jump to No. 6, while Korn's ''Take a Look in the Mirror,'' in its first full week of release, bounded from 19th to ninth place. Also in the top 10 were Josh Groban's ''Closer'' (which still saw a modest sales boost, despite sliding one slot to No. 7), G-Unit's ''Beg for Mercy'' (slipping six spots to No. 8), and OutKast's ''Speakerboxxx/The Love Below'' (holding in 10th place).
Newcomers had a hard time this week, with much-hyped albums by Nelly, Missy Elliott, Puddle of Mudd, Enrique Iglesias, and Nelly Furtado debuting outside the top 10. Nelly's ''Da Derrty Versions (The Reinvention)'' entered the chart at No. 12, one spot ahead of Elliott's ''This Is Not a Test.'' Puddle of Mudd's ''Life on Display'' went on display at No. 20. Iglesias' ''Seven'' debuted at No. 31, and Furtado's ''Folklore'' could fly no higher than No. 38.