Britney Spears tops digital download chart

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LOS ANGELES, Oct 4 (Reuters) In the midst of a court fight for custody of her children, pop star Britney Spears topped the digital songs charts as her new single, ''Gimme More,'' posted 179,000 US downloads for its first week in release.

The first track from Spears' forthcoming album stole the top spot away from teen rapper Soulja Boy's megahit ''Crank That,'' which had spent most of the past 12 weeks at No. 1 on Nielsen SoundScan's digital songs chart.

''Gimme More'' also shot to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, Spears' highest ranking there since her debut single, ''... Baby One More Time,'' peaked at No. 1 in 1999. The Hot 100 is based on radio airplay, downloads and Internet streaming.

Spears' latest song was issued for digital downloads on Sept. 25 after nearly three weeks of airplay and was lodged at No. 68 on the Hot 100 chart the week before its commercial release.

Soulja Boy's ''Crank That'' remained at the top of the Hot 100 for the week ending Sept. 30, followed at No. 2 by the Kanye West hit ''Stronger,'' Billboard said.

Spears' chart success follows a tumultuous year in the singer's personal life as she struggles to rejuvenate her recording career.

Her dazed comeback appearance lip-syncing ''Gimme More'' at the MTV Video Music Awards in September was widely panned for her apparent lack of preparation, a stark contrast to the dazzling performances that helped make Spears the world's top-selling female artist in the early 2000s.

Lawyers for Spears and her ex-husband, Kevin Federline, were due back in court yesterday for a hearing before the Los Angeles judge who earlier in the week ordered Federline to take sole custody of their two young sons until further notice.

REUTERS YA BST0842

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