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Eminem and The Beatles Duke It Out

The race to dominate the decade in music has come down to Eminem and The Beatles in the stretch. The winner?

Both. The rapper emerges as the top-selling artist of the past 10 years, and the Fab Four have bragging rights to the best-selling album.

With 32.2 million copies sold, Eminem leads the pack in overall album sales, followed by The Beatles with 30 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which releases its decade tabulations today. Data were tallied through Nov. 1, and though figures could rise through Dec. 31, they won't alter the rankings.

The Beatles' hits compilation 1 sold 11.5 million, edging 'N Sync's No Strings Attached, with 11.1 million. Eminem has two titles among the top 10 albums, 2000's The Marshall Mathers LP at No. 4 with 10.2 million and 2002's The Eminem Show at No. 5 with 9.8 million.

An early and roaring start paid off for The Beatles and 'N Sync. Released Nov. 13, 2000, 1 sold 595,000 its first week, 662,000 the next and 1.3 million during Christmas week. It spent eight weeks atop the chart. No Strings, issued March 21, 2000, sold 2.4 million its first seven days, the biggest week in SoundScan history.

"When you get toward 11 million units, it has to be more than early momentum," says Eric Weinberg, president of Nielsen Entertainment. "It needs to be good. What's amazing about this industry is that we really never know what the numbers are going to be."

Case in point: the unexpected mainstream success of St. Louis rapper Nelly, whose hit-laden 2000 debut Country Grammar is the 10th best-selling album, with 8.5 million copies. Norah Jones' 2002 debut, Come Away With Me, was another surprise hit, boosted by five Grammys. It lands at No. 3 with 10.5 million.

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