As if to give us a second to catch our breath after a few weeks of solid activity, this week’s Billboard chart numbers kinda suck. Adele’s 21 returns to the #1 spot with 88,000 copies sold, just a 6% decline over the previous week’s scans. The British singer’s numbers have been ridiculously consistent both here and in her home country (where “consistent” would be a bit of an understatement-the album’s spent it’s entire 11-week life at #1) and brings my attention to a phenomenon known as the “album artist”. Adele appears to be one of those artists capable of racking up solid numbers with only a dab of pop radio airplay. As her style doesn’t really appeal to people in their teens (or unsophisticated folks in their early twenties), Top 40 radio has more or less stayed away from her, making her still something of an unknown to Middle America. However, that hasn’t affected her sales too much. 21 is by leaps and bounds 2011’s best selling album so far-the only album to surpass the million-sold mark and one of only TWO albums to surpass the half-million mark so far this year, with the second artist being the similarly Top 40-unfriendly Mumford & Sons.  Coincidentally, Mumford’s Sigh No More leaps back into the Top Ten this week, jumping 11-8.

Last week was a pretty light period for new releases, but five albums still manage to debut in the Top 20. Rap/rock ensemble Hollywood Undead (these guys wear masks…oh NOOOOOOO!!) score the week’s highest new entry-landing at #4 with their latest, American Tragedy. The set scans 66K. Meanwhile, metalcore band Asking Alexandria pull off something of a surprise Top 10 debut, landing at #9 with Reckless & Relentless. The other new entries in the Top 20 are Robbie Robertson’s How to Become Clairvoyant (aided by some key TV appearances, the former Band guitarist lands at #13), the Tron: Legacy Remix project (spearheaded by Daft Punk, #16) and the latest from rapper Jim Jones, Capo, at #20.

Just about every artist who shows an increase this year comes from the country & western field, thanks to the CMT Awards that aired a week and a half ago. Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean and Taylor Swift all score increases (as do several albums by the Zac Brown Band), but the show’s biggest beneficiary appears to be co-host/Miranda Lambert arm candy Blake Shelton. Hot off his co-hosting gig (and the announcement that he’s gonna be one of the four judges on “The Voice”), his new single, “Honey Bee” makes a smashing debut on the download single charts, entering at #4. It’s a surprisingly high debut for a country song, and also a high debut for an artist who, while successful for a decade now, has never been considered on the level of a Brad Paisley or a Tim McGraw. Reality TV (and a smoking hot wife) have apparently been berry berry good to Blake.

Next week, it’s looking like it’s all about Foo Fighters, as the buzz around the band’s latest, Wasting Light, is deafening. I’d say they’re a lock for the #1 spot and they might wind up scoring the biggest first week sales of their career. I’d also expect totals north of 50K and maybe as high as 100K from Atmosphere, Alison Krauss & Union Station, TV on the Radio and Paul Simon.

Get this week’s Top 20 after the jump.

1) 21-Adele
2) Femme Fatale-Britney Spears
3) King of Limbs-Radiohead
4) American Tragedy-Hollywood Undead
5) Rolling Papers-Wiz Khalifa
6) F.A.M.E.-Chris Brown
7) Songs for Japan-Various Artists
8) Sigh No More-Mumford & Sons
9) Reckless & Relentless-Asking Alexandria
10) Hello Fear-Kirk Franklin
11) I Remember Me-Jennifer Hudson
12) My Kinda Party-Jason Aldean
13) How to Become Clairvoyant-Robbie Robertson
14) Teenage Dream-Katy Perry
15) You Get What You Give-Zac Brown Band
16) Tron: Legacy (Remixes)-Various Artists
17) Greatest Hits So Far-P!nk
18) Never Say Never: Remixes-Justin Bieber
19) Now That’s What I Call Music 37-Various Artists
20) Capo-Jim Jones

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