Singer/songwriter John Mayer can give thanks to his fans this week. His fourth album, “Battle Studies”, debuts atop the Billboard album chart this week. Just under 286,000 copies of Mayer’s album were sold in the past week. It’s Mayer’s second chart-topper. His first week album sales have been remarkably consistent. His previous studio album, “Continuum”, debuted at #2 (behind Justin Timberlake) with a shade under 300K, while his previous album, “Heavier Things”, debuted at the top with 316K.

It’s a big week for new releases: 5 of this week’s Top 6 albums are debuts. Norah Jones’ fourth studio album, “The Fall” becomes her first release to not hit #1, opening at #3 with 180,000 units. It’s a sharp drop off in sales for Jones, who sold over a million copies in a week of her second album, “Feels Like Home”, just a few short years ago. Although this is probably to be expected, seeing as Norah is not your typical pop artist and a lot of the earlier attention was likely due to her massive Grammy win the year before. A more alarming development would be at #5, where 50 Cent’s “Before I Self Destruct” starts with a mediocre 160,000 units. Each of Fiddy’s three previous studio albums started with more than 500,000 copies, and this album had the benefit of TWO full weeks of digital sales. Any way you look at those numbers, it’s a huge disappointment and probably a blow to the ego of Mr. Cent, who will very likely find something to blame it on other than the fact that his music sucks. The other two big debuts come from contemporary Christian outfit Casting Crowns at #4 (167K) and Usher protege Justin Bieber, with a surprising 137K at #6.

The problem with releasing so many albums in a given week is that there will inevitably be flops that probably wouldn’t tank so hard if they were released at other times. The 11-20 spots house quite a few albums that performed below expectations. “American Idol” Kris Allen gets off to the worst-ever start by an “AI” champ, with a #11 debut and 80,000 sold. Two spots later, Leona Lewis, whose debut album started at #1 and sold two million copies, falls victim to the sophomore jinx. Her “Echo” starts at an unlucky #13 with 67K. Ryan Tedder might be an all-star songwriter, with hits like Lewis’s “Bleeding Love” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Already Gone”, but his band, OneRepublic, is still B-list, with a #19 placing and 39K sold for their sophomore release, “Waking Up”, while Janet Jackson anchors the week’s top 20 albums with 37K sold of her “Number Ones” album. A lengthy ABC-TV interview apparently didn’t do much to goose sales.

In the “fail” category, we have last week’s #1 album, Bon Jovi’s “The Circle”. Jon, Richie and company drop a whopping 17 spots down to #18 with their latest album, one of the sharpest second-week falls in recent memory. Meanwhile, former “it” band Fall Out Boy manages a weak #68 debut with their Greatest Hits album (a bit premature, maybe?). Finally in disappointing chart news, R&B group Pretty Ricky not only lost lead singer Pleasure P, they seem to have lost their fans as well. Their last album debuted at the top, but their third effort, a self-titled affair, starts at a lowly #85, with just under 9,000 units sold. Yes, I said 9,000 units.

In more cheery news, the “Twilight: New Moon” soundtrack has come back to life since the movie’s record-breaking release. It only moves up two spots on the chart, from 10-8, but increases 77% in sales, scanning a handsome 93,000 units, bringing its’ total to over 500,000 copies.

Next week, Susan Boyle is widely expected to take the #1 crown with her debut album, but watch out for Lady GaGa’s “Fame” reissue. Her release might be hurt by the fact that it’s available in two separate configurations, but she might give Boyle a run for her money. It’s a battle of unattractive women! Where’s Fergie when you need her?

Here’s this week’s Top 20 albums:

1) John Mayer “Battle Studies”
2) Andrea Bocelli “My Christmas”
3) Norah Jones “The Fall”
4) Casting Crowns “Until the Whole World Hears”
5) 50 Cent “Before I Self Destruct”
6) Justin Bieber “My World”
7) Michael Jackson “This is It”
8) Various Artists “Twilight: New Moon Soundtrack”
9) Carrie Underwood “Play On”
10) Taylor Swift “Fearless”
11) Kris Allen “Kris Allen”
12) Them Crooked Vultures “Them Crooked Vultures”
13) Leona Lewis “Echo”
14) Various Artists “Now That’s What I Call Music 32”
15) Paul McCartney “Good Evening New York City”
16) Michael Buble “Crazy Love”
17) Glee Cast “Glee Soundtrack, Vol. 1”
18) Bon Jovi “The Circle”
19) OneRepublic “Waking Up”
20) Janet Jackson “Number Ones”