First things first: this week’s chart brings good news and bad news. First-the good news. Beyonce acquits herself well with a chart-topping entry for 4. The R&B songstress’s latest effort starts at #1 on the pop and R&B album charts with 310,000 units. While it’s a little lower than the numbers that have greeted past efforts, if anyone considers a total north of 300,000 copies to be a failure or a disappointment, they’re seriously delusional.

Bey is the biggest of the many debuts in the Top 10 this week. Behind her, you’ll find Kanye protege Big Sean, whose Finally Famous debut starts at #3 with a respectable  87K. Teen star Selena Gomez is right behind at #4 with 78K. This year’s “American Idol” champ, Scotty McCreery, begins at #10 with his latest EP, scanning 40K (in advance of his full-length debut, which arrives later this year). However, former “Idol” champ David Cook gets off to a disappointing start with This Loud Morning. The follow-up to his platinum-selling first album manages a middling 46,000 units to land at #7 on this week’s chart.

This week’s big drivers are “The Voice” and the recent BET Awards. Last week’s final episode of the hit television show spurs gains for three of it’s four judges (sorry, Cee-Lo. You’re down this week). Blake Shelton’s greatest hits collection scoots up 183% (up 60-18), Christina Aguilera’s hits collection Keeps Gettin’ Better re-enters the chart at #46 after selling barely anything the week before, and Maroon 5’s Hands All Over skips 73-29 on a gain of nearly 140%, finally crossing the Gold barrier after nearly a year out. Over on the digital downloads chart, Javier Colon, who won the talent competition, starts at #6 with his “Stitch by Stitch”, while runner-up Dia Frampton is just a step behind at #7 with “Inventing Shadows”. BET Award performers who see gains include performer/award mix-up recipient Drake (+32%), four-time award winner Chris Brown (+27%) and performers/award winners Mary Mary (+21%).

This week’s “How the Mighty Have Fallen” award has to go to Limp Bizkit. Once able to push a million copies in a week, Fred Durst and co.’s Gold Cobra (their first album in over half a decade) starts off at #16 with a limp (ha!) 27,000 units.

This week also marks the 26th week of the chart year. It’s the end of the first half of 2011, and things are looking up in the music industry for the first time in years. Sales are up slightly against the same period in 2010, and it appears that things might finally be leveling off after several years of near-constant decline.

This year’s biggest champion has unquestionably been Adele. The British songstress has sold 2.5 million copies of 21, and she did it with very little mainstream penetration. “Rolling in the Deep” didn’t take off at Top 40 radio until a couple of months after the album’s release. This should serve as a lesson to be learned for the music industry. An artist who writes her own music, doesn’t fit the typical media-generated images of a sex symbol (and really doesn’t play the sex symbol card) and makes music that appeals to every “format” (“Rolling in the Deep” has charted on the pop, dance, adult contemporary, alternative rock AND R&B charts) has outsold just about every media creation in existence. And I can guarantee you that when the Grammy nominations are announced in December (and the show airs in February), Adele will be at the head of that particular table.

At the 26 week mark, only two albums have sold over a million copies, and an additional 14 titles have sold over half a million copies. The top selling albums are a mix of pop radio favorites (Katy Perry, GaGa, Britney, Pink), country stars (Taylor Swift & Jason Aldean), new stars (Bruno Mars, Nicki Minaj, Wiz Khalifa), comebacks (Chris Brown) and a few artists from left field (the aforementioned Adele, Mumford & Sons). Scroll a little further down the list, and you’ll see a few underperformers as well. Widely anticipated albums by The Beastie Boys, Avril Lavigne and Jennifer Lopez have all yet to hit the 300,000 sales mark.

Check out the year’s top selling albums at the 26 week point after the jump.

1) 21 | Adele
2) Born This Way | Lady GaGa
3) Sigh No More | Mumford & Sons
4) My Kinda Party | Jason Aldean
5) Doo-Wops & Hooligans | Bruno Mars
6) Never Say Never: The Remixes | Justin Bieber
7) F.A.M.E. | Chris Brown
8) Now That’s What I Call Music 37 | Various Artists
9) Pink Friday | Nicki Minaj
10) Teenage Dream | Katy Perry
11) Loud | Rihanna
12) Femme Fatale | Britney Spears
13) Speak Now | Taylor Swift
14) Greatest Hits…So Far | P!nk
15) My World 2.0 | Justin Bieber
16) Recovery | Eminem
17) Wasting Light | Foo Fighters
18) Rolling Papers | Wiz Khalifa
19) Need You Now | Lady Antebellum
20) Now That’s What I Call Music 38 | Various Artists

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