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Alicia Keys dethrones Rihanna from Billboard top spot

U.S. singer Alicia Keys arrives on the red carpet for the MTV European Music Awards 2012 at the Festhalle in Frankfurt November 11, 2012. RE
U.S. singer Alicia Keys arrives on the red carpet for the MTV European Music Awards 2012 at the Festhalle in Frankfurt November 11, 2012. RE

By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - American R&B singer Alicia Keys scored her fifth No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 album chart on Wednesday with "Girl on Fire," unseating reigning chart queen Rihanna.

Keys' fifth studio album sold 159,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which was the lowest opening week of sales for any of the soulful singer's career.

Keys, 31, held off country-pop starlet Taylor Swift's "Red" and Rod Stewart's "Merry Christmas, Baby" for the top spot.

British boy band One Direction's "Take Me Home" and country-rock singer Phillip Phillips' "The World from the Side of the Moon" were fourth and fifth on the chart respectively. Rihanna's "Unapologetic" slid to sixth in its second week on the chart.

Keys' only album not to debut atop the Billboard chart was 2009's "The Element of Freedom," which sold 417,000 copies in its first week but was thwarted from the top spot by British talent-show sensation Susan Boyle's "I Dreamed a Dream."

First-week sales of "Girl on Fire" were in line with industry expectations of 145,000 to 170,000 units sold, Billboard said.

Album sales tumbled the week after the holiday shopping season kicked off, falling 23 percent overall. Only 13 albums picked up more sales in the top 100 this week, not counting chart debuts and re-entries.

The 7.52 million albums sold last week was a decline of 7 percent from the same week last year. In 2012, some 275.3 million albums have been sold so far, marking a 4 percent decline compared with the same point in 2011, according to Nielsen.

Black Eyed Peas mastermind will.i.am's single "Scream & Shout" featuring Britney Spears knocked Korean viral dance hit "Gangnam Style" by PSY out of the top spot in digital songs.

"Scream & Shout," which was released on November 21, leaped from No. 66 to the top spot with 169,000 downloads.

The electronic pop-dance song was buoyed by the music video's premiere on the U.S. television singing show "The X Factor," which stars Spears as a judge, and as the feature music of an TV advertising campaign for headphones starring will.i.am.

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey, editing by Jill Serjeant and Maureen Bavdek)

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