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50 Cent and Carey are going to the wire

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Times Staff Writer

THE CD sales story of the week belongs to “American Idol,” but the sales story of the year is the tight race between 50 Cent and Mariah Carey.

With just 10 days left in 2005, it looks as if Carey’s dramatic year-end surge will allow her to overtake the New York rapper and capture album-of-the-year sales honors.

50 Cent’s “The Massacre” has sold just over 4.8 million copies since early March, Nielsen SoundScan reported Wednesday. Carey’s “The Emancipation of Mimi” has sold nearly 4.6 million since it hit stores in April.

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But her album is a far hotter item going into the last days of the year. “Mimi” sold 191,000 more copies to rank No. 7 for the week, while “Massacre” sold only 21,000 copies last week to rank No. 127. If 50 Cent’s album continues selling at the same pace, Carey would edge past “Massacre” if “Mimi” sells about 260,000 more copies by Dec. 31.

Carey’s showing is one of the most dramatic comebacks in pop history. The onetime bestseller was considered so over commercially that EMI paid $30 million to buy out her $80-million contract in 2002. She was then signed by Island Def Jam, which released “Mimi.”

Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” shapes up as the year’s third biggest seller, with sales of 4.1 million through Wednesday. The CD, which was released in January, sold 181,000 copies last week to finish No. 8 on the chart. It was one of three “American Idol”-related packages in the Top 10, evidence of the TV show’s hold on the U.S. pop audience.

Carrie Underwood, the country singer who won this year’s competition, ranks No. 2 on this week’s chart, while runner-up Southern rocker Bo Bice entered at No. 4. Underwood’s “Some Hearts” sold 271,000 copies. Bice’s “The Real Thing,” sold 227,000 copies.

Eminem’s greatest-hits package, “Curtain Call,” remains No. 1 for the second week after selling 324,000 copies last week. Although the number of digitally downloaded tracks is up dramatically for the year, CD sales are about 569 million -- or down 8% from 2004.

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