The real Slim Shady just stood up in a major way, debuting at the top of the latest Billboard 200 albums chart with 608,000 copies sold of his Relapse, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That’s this year’s biggest opening number by a healthy margin, leaving U2′s 484,000 bow in March far behind. Let this serve as a reality check for anyone who’s been questioning Eminem’s continued relevance in 2009: The man remains a massive force at the nation’s cash registers.
If anything, it appears the five-year wait between studio albums while Em sorted out his personal life might have actually been a good thing for Relapse‘s sales. Best Buy manager Jonathan Hart tells the Music Mix that the delay has helped bring "a lot of customers" into the Manhattan store where he works. "People weren’t sure if this guy was ever going to be back," Hart tells the Music Mix. "It’s generated hype because of that." Fuse TV vice president David Weier echoes this thought: "I often criticize the record business for rushing records out too soon. You’ve got to let people miss you. That’s exactly what he did this time: He stepped out of the light, away from the media, away from the attention, [and] let people wonder."
Then again, does Marshall Mathers even give a proverbial bleep how many CDs he sells at this point in his career? "I know for a fact that he’s not doing it for the money," Eminem’s touring DJ, the Alchemist, recently told me. "The guy’s made a lot in his life." That he has — and I’m sure the highers-up at Interscope are nonetheless very pleased that he’s just made a bunch more. Read on after the jump for sales results on the rest of this week’s bumper crop of new releases.