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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Scottish singer Susan Boyle narrowly failed to claim honors for the year's best-selling album in the United States on Wednesday, but still has another sales week to wrest the title from country star Taylor Swift.
Boyle's debut album "I Dreamed a Dream" already the year's best seller in Britain, has sold 2.98 million copies after five consecutive weeks at No. 1, tracking firm Nielsen SoundScan said.
Swift's "Fearless," the No. 3 seller in 2008, has sold 3.16 million copies this year, giving the 20-year-old a margin of about 175,000 over Boyle. Nielsen SoundScan's sales week ends on Sunday, but it will include the first three days of 2010 in a 53rd week for 2009.
American Christmas shoppers snapped up 510,000 copies of Boyle's album during the week ended December 27, giving it a wide lead over the rest of the field. R&B star Mary J. Blige's "Stronger debuted at No. 2 with 330,000 copies. Swift's "Fearless" rose one place to No. 5 with 224,000 copies.
The success of both Boyle and Swift, as well as dance-pop singer Lady Gaga -- whom Boyle replaced atop the year's album-sales tally in Britain -- shows how heavily the music industry relies on fresh blood to drive sales.
Still, overall U.S. album sales are on track to end 2009 down about 13 percent, marking the eighth drop in nine years. The recorded music industry has failed to come to grips with piracy as well as competition from other forms of entertainment, such as videogames.
Boyle, 48, rocketed to fame in April when she appeared as a contestant on the British talent show "Britain's Got Talent." Shy and homely, she wowed the skeptical judges and audience with a stirring rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream," a tune from the musical "Les Miserables." Tens of millions of people watched the performance on Youtube, and Boyle became a worldwide star, her every move dissected by the media.
Surprisingly, she lost the final to a dance troupe the following month, and was soon admitted to a psychiatric clinic to deal with exhaustion.
The diverse track listing on her album includes the hymns "Amazing Grace" and "How Great Thou Art," a cover of the Rolling Stones ballad "Wild Horses," and a version of "Daydream Believer," a tune first popularized by the Monkees.
It was released by Sony Corp's Columbia Records label in partnership with British music impresario Simon Cowell's Syco Music. (Editing by Jill Serjeant)