The biggest shopping week of the year, a 7-day period filled with superstar releases. The possibilities were endless. Would Rihanna score her first ever #1 album? Would rock band Nickelback give all the haters a metaphorical middle finger with a chart-topping debut? Would Mary J. Blige add to an impressive list of first-week numbers?

Ladies and gentlemen, the #1 album in the country is: Michael Buble’s Christmas.

The Canadian crooner’s holiday album, which has been out for over a month, cruises to the top of this week’s Billboard 200 album chart, scanning a healthy 227,000 units. Christmas is quickly shaping up to be the 2011 equivalent of world-beating holiday successes in the past, from the likes of Kenny G and Josh Groban. These moms and grandmoms are going crazy at the wrecka’ sto’, yo!

Buble barely beats out his fellow Canadians, Nickelback. Chad Kroeger and company start off at #2 with their latest album, Here And Now. In one of the most intense photo finishes in music biz history, Nickelback misses the top of the charts by only 500 units. Come on-five Canucks couldn’t jump over the border toMichigan orMaine, pick up a copy of the album, and then head back home? Guess not.

The Top Ten is littered with debuts this week. Rihanna’s search for a #1 album will have to continue, as Talk That Talk starts at #3. The 198,000 units it moved isn’t enough to land at the top of the pop charts, but it does give her another #1 album, and it presents Rihanna as a model of consistency. Each of her last four albums has debuted with roughly the same amount sold. She’s joined in the Top 10 by two artists whose sales appear to be on the decline-Mary J. Blige and Daughtry. The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul starts at #5 with the much-hyped My Life 2: The Journey Continues. While 156,000 units is nothing to sneeze at, it’s only about a quarter of what The Breakthrough sold just a few years ago. Meanwhile, Daughtry starts at #8 with 129,000 copies. It’s a far cry from the totals that greeted the band’s first two albums.

News outlets reported consumer spending at an all time high last week, and that’s reflected in this week’s album charts for sure. Of this week’s Top 200 albums, only 18 decline in sales from the previous week, with many albums doubling in sales. This is not only a result of the kickoff to the holiday season, but also the American Music Awards, which helps to spike sales for Jennifer Lopez (+367%), Maroon 5 (+351%), OneRepublic (+274%) and Nicki Minaj (+ 250%). LMFAO’s Sorry For Party Rocking takes a 25-position leap, landing at #16 on the charts, and if we can switch over to the singles chart for a second, will.i.am’s “T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)” (which features Lopez as well as Mick Jagger) starts off at #36 on the Hot 100 and #16 on the Digital Downloads chart.

With no major releases out last week (and Adele’s live set being counted as a DVD and not a CD,) expect Buble to remain on top next week and through the holiday season. In two weeks, The Black Keys’ new album might challenge for the top spot.

This week’s Top 20 Albums:

1) Christmas | Michael Buble
2) Here And Now | Nickelback
3) Talk That Talk | Rihanna
4) Take Care | Drake
5) My Life 2: The Journey Continues | Mary J. Blige
6) Under The Mistletoe | Justin Bieber
7) 21 | Adele
8) Break The Spell | Daughtry
9) Clear As Day | Scotty McCreery
10) Mylo Xyloto | Coldplay
11) Speak Now World Tour Live | Taylor Swift
12) Elevate | Big Time Rush
13) Now That’s What I Call Music 40 | Various Artists
14) Concerto: Live In Central Park | Andrea Bocelli
15) Tha Carter IV | Lil Wayne
16) Sorry For Party Rocking | LMFAO
17) The Band Perry | The Band Perry
18) Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Soundtrack | Various Artists
19) Ultimate Hits: Rock & Roll Never Forgets | Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
20) Hands All Over | Maroon 5

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