With six weeks on 2012 gone, it advances to the top of the year-to-date chart, where its tally of 176,770 sales in a fortnight place it ahead of runner-up Adele's 21 (135,897). Del Rey's singles also continue to do well - the album's title track slips 9-10, although it has its best sales week (28,802 sales), while first single Video Games rebounds 17-13 (21,662 sales).
Anglo/Irish singer/rapper Maverick Sabre comes closest to dethroning Del Rey, with his debut album, Lonely Are The Brave making a strong debut at number two (44,242 sales). The 21 year old - real name Michael Stafford - was born in and currently lives in his mother's home city of London but as his unusual hybrid accent attests, he has spent two-thirds of his life hitherto in his father's home town in Wexford, Ireland. The album's first two singles, Let Me Go and I Need, peaked at number 16 and number 18 last year. Third single No One debuts this week at number 50 (5,748 sales), while Let Me Go and I Need return to the chart at number 39 (7,810 sales) and number 46 (6,565 sales), respectively.
Paul McCartney's 33rd post-Beatles chart album, Kisses On The Bottom debuts at number three (23,849 sales), instantly becoming his highest charting solo set since 1997, when Flaming Pie reached number two. Kisses On The Bottom is 69 year old McCartney's follow-up to 2007's Memory Almost Full, which debuted and peaked at number five with first week sales of 21,246, and has so far sold 105,010 copies. Memory Almost Full was made up entirely of original songs, whereas only two of the 14 tracks on Kisses On The Bottom are McCartney compositions. The rest are covers of American standards, including It's Only A Paper Moon, I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter (source of the Kisses On The Bottom title) and Bye Bye Blackbird. The latter track, which dates from 1926, was also covered by McCartney's fellow Beatle Ringo Starr on his debut solo album Sentimental Journey in 1970. By coincidence, the two remaining Beatles released their latest albums a week apart. 71 year old Starr's Ringo 2012 - a mixture of covers, updates and new songs with a playing time of less than 29 minutes - made a less convincing debut last week, selling just 752 copies, to enter the chart at number 181. Starr's album fares better in America, where it debuts at number 80 this week, after selling 6,348 copies.
Three acts whose last studio album - coincidentally - peaked at number 43 improve significantly on that placing with their latest offerings.
Veteran US/Dutch rockers Van Halen land their highest charting album ever, with 12th studio album A Different Kind Of Truth storming to a number six debut (14,040 sales). The group's first album for 14 years, it features the vocals of David Lee Roth, who rejoined the band in 2006 after a 12 year absence. Van Halen's last album, Van Halen III, reached number 43 in 1998.
London band Young Guns reached number 43 with their 2010 debut, All Our Kings Are Dead, and improve significantly on that with Bones (number 19, 7,047 sales). And number 43 was also the position in which Mark Lanegan's 2004 album Bubblegum peaked. It was his sixth solo album since leaving The Screaming Trees, and the first to breach the Top 75. Follow-up Blues Funeral - credited to The Mark Lanegan Band - debuts this week at number 21 (6,705 sales).
Also making the Top 40 in the busiest week of the year to date for debuts: Format: B-Sides And Bonus Tracks debuts at number 26 (5,909 sales) for The Pet Shop Boys; The Singles debuts at number 33 for Goldfrapp (4,537 sales), with two new songs and number 180 single Believer but no space for number 31 hit Twist; French band Air's Le Voyage Dans Le Lune debuts at number 35 (4,464 sales).
After debuting last week at number two, Leonard Cohen's Old Ideas dips to number eight (12,2664 sales). Three 2011 albums that returned to number one in January are also in decline: Ed Sheeran's + slips 3-4 (19,807 sales); Adele's 21 falls 4-5 (17,544 sales); and Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto ebbs 5-9 (10,371 sales).
At Last: The Best Of Etta James is the star performer among albums on the climb, improving sales by 120.11% week-on-week as it jumps 47-22 (6,674 sales).
Overall album sales are down just 0.15% week-on-week at 1,705,575 - 17.60% below same week 2011 sales of 2,069,879.
SINGLES: Guetta Vs. Gotye: Number one on midweek sales flashes, Titanium wasn't able to hang on for a second week at the summit for David Guetta feat. Sia. Although it sold a further 81,142 copies last week, it was overhauled by Somebody That I Used To Know, by Gotye feat. Kimbra. The latter disc registers a big (42.90%) increase in sales for the fourth week in a row, and jumps 3-1 on sales of 83,265 copies for the Australian based Belgian and New Zealander.
A significant number of singles in this week's chart pair two separate recording artists - but the week's two highest debuts each have three big stars on board. Leading the new intake, T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever) debuts at number three (53,977 sales) for Will.I.Am feat. Jennifer Lopez and Mick Jagger. The track's appeal to UK audiences was proven by the number 40 debut of a soundalike spoiler by The Kings Of Pop a fortnight ago, but the original doesn't seem nearly so appealing to American audiences - it peaked there at number 36 in December and ebbs 61-86 this week. In the UK, T.H.E. extends Mick Jagger's chart span to more than 48 years, and provides his highest charting single since his Dancing In The Street collaboration with David Bowie reached number one in 1985. Meanwhile, Give Me All Your Luvin' debuts at number 37 (8,577 sales) for Madonna feat. Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. The track was ineligible for the chart last week, as it was being offered as a pre-order incentive for parent album MDNA - but it became eligible for chart duty on Tuesday. It is Madonna's 67th hit, M.I.A.'s fourth. Neither Madonna nor M.I.A. has added to their tally since Minaj made her chart debut at the end of August 2010 - less than 18 months ago - but during their absence, Minaj has gone from none to 14 hits, seven as main artist and seven in a supporting role. It's not the only Minaj hit on the move this week - Turn Me On by David Guetta feat. Nicki Minaj leaps 33-11 (22,940 sales) to surpass the number 20 peak it scaled as an album track last September, as TV gets behind its newly-serviced promotional videoclip, which jumps 58-14 on the TV airplay chart.
It is seven years next week since another rapid hit accumulator, Lil Wayne made his chart debut. The fecund rapper even spent eight months in jail but has managed to collect 28 Top 75 hits. The latest, Mirror (feat. Bruno Mars), jumps 68-38 (8,361 sales) this week.
Still enjoying a lift from its use in Dancing On Ice last month, Birdy's Skinny Love skates higher for the fourth week in a row. After re-entering the chart at number 29, it climbed first to number 28, then to number 24. It now moves to number 22, with sales of a further 14,285 copies lifting its career tally to 320,475. The track debuted at number 25 last March, and peaked at number 17 last May.
One Direction also made a visit to Dancing On Ice nine days ago (4th February), and are rewarded with improved chart positions for the two songs they performed: One Thing bounces 38-26 (11,902 sales) and What Makes You Beautiful rallies 47-41 (7,395 sales). But both singles are leapfrogged by fellow X Factor discovery Rebecca Ferguson's debut single Nothing Is Real But Love, which surges 67-34 (9,465 sales) thanks to its use as a soundbed in the new Nescafe Gold Blend TV advert.
Dipping 28-32 on sales of 10,711, former number one We Found Love racks up its millionth sale for Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris. The track has sold 1,006,460 copies in 19 weeks, and is the third Rihanna track to reach the million sales plateau since October, following Love The Way You Lie (Eminem feat. Rihanna) and Only Girl (In the World), which have now attracted cumulative sales of 1,029,866 and 1,020,253 respectively.
Overall singles sales are down 0.55% week-on-week at 3,422,741 - 8.33% above same week 2011 sales of 3,159,504.
* The tragic death of Whitney Houston at the age of 48 was confirmed five minutes before the end of the sales week, and didn't leak into the public domain for another hour or so, so it's no surprise that none of her recordings is currently in the Top 200 singles or albums listings. Expect that to change dramatically by this time next week. Within 12 hours of Houston's death she occupied 26 slots in iTunes Top 200 in the UK, with I Will Always Love You and I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) leading the influx. These songs were also the top two among Houston's 10 biggest catalogue sales last year. The full list: 1 I Will Always Love You - 18,812 sales, 2 I Wanna Dance With Somebody - 18,226, 3 One Moment In Time - 11,966, 4 I Have Nothing - 10,694, 5 Million Dollar Bill - 7,969, 6 How Will I Know - 5,643, 7 Saving All My Love For You - 4,946, 8 My Love Is Your Love - 4,729, 9 Run To You - 4,671, 10 The Greatest Love Of All - 4,469. Her three top albums last year: 1 The Ultimate Collection - 87,030 sales, 2 The Greatest Hits - 8,235, 3 I Look To You - 3,000.