Three big pieces of news on the Billboard Album charts this week…

First, there were debuts aplenty thanks to a majorly packed new release schedule. Top honors went to Brit prog-rockers Muse, who entered at #3 on the strength of 128,000 copies sold. It’s their best first week and highest debut ever. Right behind is Kanye West protege Kid Cudi, who clears a handsome 104K with his debut. Hip-hop phenom Drake enters at #6 with his first commercially released EP, and rapper Lil’ Boosie (yeah, I don’t know who he is either) starts off at #7. The top 10’s other debut comes from metal veterans Megadeth. Dave Mustaine and company enter the charts at #9 with 45K sold.

There are a couple of long-awaited returns to the chart. Kiss’s Ace Frehley, who hasn’t released a solo album in something like two decades, arrives at #27 with “Anomaly”, proving that the KISS Army is very much still in effect. Other returning vets include Uncle Kracker, who’s been gone for the better part of a half-decade (#38) and Living Colour earning their first chart ink since 1993 at #161.

Speaking of effects…how about the Oprah effect? Thanks to Whitney Houston’s season-opening two day interview with the TV queen, “I Look to You” holds at #2 for a second week, increasing 77% in scans to sell 156K for the week. This vaults Whitney’s album over the 500K mark in a scant three weeks. I hope she sent Oprah flowers or something.

And then there’s the MTV Awards effect, which benefited just about every artist who presented and performed. Jay-Z’s “Blueprint 3” took a smaller than usual second-week hit, dropping 37% to land at 298K for the week and a second frame at #1. Jay’s album is only a couple of weeks away from outdistancing the sales of his last record, “American Gangster”, which rang up just over 1.1 million in sales. Additionally, the song that closed the show, “Empire State of Mind”, vaults to the top of the downloaded tracks chart and jumps from 50-5 on the Top 100 singles chart, giving Jay two singles in the Top 5. Additionally, “Run This Town”, his current track with Kanye and Rihanna, jumps to #2, becoming the highest charting single ever for Jay-Z as a lead artist. As a featured artist, he’s had 3 #1s-Mariah Carey’s “Heartbreaker”, Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” and Rihanna’s “Umbrella”

Other MTV performers who made noise this week include Lady Gaga (#12/+76%), Pink (#28/ +95%) and Green Day (#54/ +17%).

Now for the question you’ve all been itching to ask: how did the Taylor Swift/Kanye West/Beyonce fiasco affect sales? Well, here goes:

Swift’s “You Belong with Me” becomes the first country song to rise to the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 airplay chart in the chart’s 18 year history. The track picks up 60% in downloads to land at #9 on this week’s Top Digital Songs chart and also climbs two spots to #4 on the Hot 100 singles chart (which combines digital and physical sales with airplay). Her nearly quadruple-platinum album “Fearless” increases 37% and lands at #8 on this week’s Billboard 200 Album chart. It’s the week’s biggest-selling country album.

Beyonce’s “I Am…Sasha Fierce” increases 40% in scans to land at #40 on the album chart. “Fierce” has sold almost 2.5 million copies in a year on the charts. Her award-winning “Single Ladies” track jumps from 106-43 on this week’s Top Digital Songs chart, increasing 159% from last week’s total. In addition, the current single from “Fierce”, “Sweet Dreams”, has just become the sixth Top 40 hit from that album, putting her within shouting distance of tying Janet Jackson (who did it twice) and Rihanna for the record in this category.

Meanwhile, Kanye West’s “808s & Heartbreak” drops 7% in scans this week. It’s hard to tell if his spaz out hurt sales, as “808s” had experienced a 6% slide the previous week and a 7% slide the week before that. “808s” has already scanned 1.6 million copies. However, despite declining sales, don’t cry for Mr. West. Aside from being the main producer of the week’s #1 album and the mentor of the artist at #4, Kanye has two songs in this week’s Top 10. The aforementioned “Run This Town” shoots up two spots to land at #2, and he debuts on the chart at #8, accompanying Drake, Lil Wayne and Eminem on “Forever”. As they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity as long as they spell your name right.

Expect Jay to have another strong week next week, although he will be outshone by the new Pearl Jam album, which has an excellent chance at debuting on top.

Here are this week’s top 20 Albums (I’m using Billboard’s Comprehensive Albums chart, which includes older titles, which is why there’s a discrepancy between some of the chart positions here and some of the positions I mentioned earlier):

1) Jay-Z “Blueprint 3”

2) Whitney Houston “I Look to You”

3) Muse “Resistance”

4) Kid Cudi “Man on the Moon: The End of the Day”

5) Miley Cyrus “Time of Our Lives EP”

6) Drake “So Far Gone EP”

7) The Beatles “Abbey Road”

8) Lil Boosie “Superman: The Return of Lil Boosie”

9) Michael Jackson “Number Ones”

10) Taylor Swift “Fearless”

11) Megadeth “Endgame”

12) The Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

13) The Black Eyed Peas “The EN.D. (The Energy Never Dies)”

14) Kings of Leon “Only by the Night”

15) Lady Gaga “The Fame”

16) The Beatles “The Beatles (The White Album)”

17) The Beatles “Rubber Soul”

18) Zac Brown Band “Foundation”

19) Trey Songz “Ready”

20) Brooks & Dunn “#1s…and Then Some”