1,005 units separate this week’s #1 and #2 albums in one of the closest races for the top spot in history. The eventual victor? Rock giants Linkin Park score the top spot with 241,000 units sold of their fourth studio album, “A Thousand Suns”. While that sum is healthy, it is cause for alarm considering that LP’s last album, “Minutes to Midnight”, debuted with triple that sum just three short years ago. Linkin Park’s sound has gradually evolved over the years, and there’s a good chance that their mellower, more atmospheric vibe just isn’t resonating the way that their aggro anthems did with their fan base.

Settling for a strong second place finish is R&B star Trey Songz. His fourth album (what is it with fourth albums this week?) “Passion Pain and Pleasure” starts with a very impressive 240,000 sold. He also manages to wrest the top spot on the R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart from Eminem, who has had a stranglehold on that list for most of the past 13 weeks.

Six albums debut in the Top Ten this week, sending last week’s champ Sara Bareilles all the way out of the Top Ten. In addition to Linkin Park and Trey Songz, the chart welcomes new arrivals from country outlaw-type Jamey Johnson (#4), Robert Plant (#5), Weezer (#6) and The Killers’ Brandon Flowers (#8).

The MTV Video Music Awards aired on the Sunday of the previous chart week, meaning this week’s chart reaps the full benefit of the winners and performances. Most artists who appeared and/or performed on the highly-rated telecast see an increase, with the biggest beneficiary being Florence & the Machine’s “Lungs”. The week prior to the show’s airing, “Lungs” was resting at #100. Last week it moved up to #44, and this week, it blasts into the Top 20 at #14, selling 21,000 copies. The chart also sees increases from 30 Seconds to Mars (+74%), Usher (+19%), Lady GaGa (11%) and Eminem (+10%). As a side note, it looks like “Recovery” has a good chance of overtaking Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” as 2010’s biggest selling album in a week’s time. Right now, Lady A has sold 2.63 million of their album, while Em has sold 2.6. The former album has dropped into the 15-20K per week range, while Eminem rang up almost 90K this past week. So barring a total collapse, we will have a new chart champion for the year by the time I write my next column!

Next week, it looks like the fight for #1 will be another photo finish, with this race being fought by country titans Zac Brown Band and pop superstars Maroon 5. Both bands look to finish between 150-175K. Granted, those aren’t 2000 numbers, but it’s nice to see at least the top two spots north of six figures!

Here’s this week’s Top 20:

1-“A Thousand Suns” Linkin Park
2-“Passion, Pain and Pleasure” Trey Songz
3-“Recovery” Eminem
4-“Guitar Song” Jamey Johnson
5-“Band of Joy” Robert Plant
6-“Hurley” Weezer
7-“Now That’s What I Call Music” Various Artists
8-“Flamingo” Brandon Flowers
9-“Teenage Dream” Katy Perry
10-“My World 2.0” Justin Bieber
11-“Asylum” Disturbed
12-“Kaleidoscope Heart” Sara Bareilles
13-“Back to Me” Fantasia
14-“Lungs” Florence & the Machine
15-“Thank Me Later” Drake
16-“Versus” Usher
17-“The Fame” Lady GaGa
18-“Sigh No More” Mumford and Sons
19-“Audio Secrecy” Stone Sour
20-“Intimacy” Kem

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