NEW YORK -- Ruben's the "American Idol," but Clay has the bigger hit.
Clay Aiken's first single debuted on the singles charts at No. 1 Wednesday, selling nearly 393,000 copies.
Aiken, the runner-up on the Fox network's talent contest "American Idol," and Ruben Studdard, the winner, released their songs last week. Aiken's "This Is The Night-Bridge Over Troubled Water" sold more, but Studdard wasn't too far behind: His "Flying Without Wings-Superstar" sold about 286,000 copies.
In comparison, most No. 1 singles don't sell more than 20,000 copies in their first week, since record companies in recent years have put out fewer and fewer singles, emphasizing the sales of albums.
Aiken's song had the biggest debut since Elton John's "Candle in the Wind" tribute to the late Princess Diana. That sold about 3.5 million in its first week in 1997.
"To have two singles selling over 250,000 copies in one week, it's quite a refreshing thing to see," said Geoff Mayfield, charts director of Billboard magazine.
But unlike last year's inaugural "American Idol" winner, Kelly Clarkson, Studdard's and Aiken's songs haven't been a big success on radio so far.
"It seemed like Kelly Clarkson got more widespread airplay in the wake of her win than either of these guys did," Mayfield said of Clarkson's chart-topping song, "A Moment Like This," which sold 236,000 copies in its first full week in stores.
"(But) maybe these numbers are big enough that it will get some programmers' attention," he added.
Studdard narrowly won over Aiken in the "American Idol" competition last month. But Aiken is far from a loser; he signed a record contract with RCA Records (Studdard is on J Records) and is featured on the cover of the Rolling Stone magazine that hits newsstands Friday.
Aiken told the magazine that he doesn't believe in premarital sex and never curses. He also discusses his father, from whom he is estranged.
"If I have anything good to say about him, it's that I think I learned to be who I am by being everything he wasn't," he said. "Part of the reason I don't smoke is that he did. He drank, and I don't. He's a racist, and I'm not. I don't want anything to do with any of that."
Both Studdard's and Aiken's albums are scheduled for release in August.
Clarkson's debut album, "Thankful," sold 297,000 copies to debut at No. 1 when it was released in April, and has sold more than 1 million copies.
Meanwhile, last year's "American Idol" runner-up, Justin Guarini, didn't fare as well with his self-titled debut album. Also released last week, it sold about 54,000 copies to place at No. 20.
Both Guarini and Clarkson will make their movie debut Friday, with the musical "From Justin to Kelly."
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