Welcome to The Contenders, a midweek column that looks at artists aiming for the top of the Billboard charts, and the strategies behind their efforts. This week (for the upcoming charts dated March 11), a number of new releases challenge SZA’s ongoing Billboard 200 supremacy — led by the latest from a Latin pop star looking to accomplish the unprecedented.
Karol G Talks ‘Mañana Será Bonito,’ Working With Shakira & Finneas and Letting …
Karol G, Mañana Será Bonito (Universal Latino): Karol G might not be a household name among mainstream U.S. audiences, but that could change with the debut of her fourth album. The Latin pop star reached a higher peak on the Billboard 200 with each of her first three albums — 2017’s Unstoppable (No. 192), 2019’s Ocean (No. 54) and 2021’s KG0516 (No. 20) — and last year scored her first two top 25 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, with “Provenza” and her Becky G collaboration “Mamiii.” Now, with last Friday’s (Feb. 24) Mañana Será Bonito, she should be in the mix for the chart’s top spot.
Mañana is currently available on CD and as a digital album — it topped the iTunes albums chart on its day of release — and is helped by the inclusion of streaming smash “Provenza,” as well as Hot 100 hits “Gatúbela’ (with Maldy) and “X Si Volvemos” (with Romeo Santos). But the album’s biggest hit might be brand new: the much-hyped Shakira collaboration “TDQ,” which has been in the top 10 of the daily charts on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and iTunes since its release.
If the album does debut at No. 1, it would make history as the first all-Spanish-language album by a female artist to reach the top spot — joining only Bad Bunny (who’s done it twice, with 2020’s El Último Tour del Mundo and 2022’s Un Verano Sin Ti) among all artists. She’d also be only the third woman with a mostly non-English language No. 1 album, following Selena (Dreaming of You, 1995) and The Singing Nun (The Singing Nun, 1963). Dreaming of You blended Spanish and English, while The Singing Nun was recorded entirely in French.
Gorillaz, Cracker Island (Parlaphone/Warner): Gorillaz fans have been waiting to take the trip to Cracker Island since the album’s title track came out last June — followed by a steady stream of singles, including the top 20 Hot Rock & Alternative Songs hit “New Gold,” featuring Tame Impala and Bootie Brown. Now, the full 10-track album is finally out, available for sale in over a dozen vinyl variants, box sets, as well as four cassette options. Speaking of Bad Bunny: He graces the album’s “Tormenta,” which should provide a nice boon to the album’s streaming numbers.
Yeat, AfterLyfë (Geffen/Field Trip/Twizzy Rich): One of the most-hyped rappers of the last few years, enigmatic hip-hop sensation Yeat released his third album in three years last week with AfterLyfë. Yeat’s streaming prowess sent 2022’s 2 Alive to No. 6 on the Billboard 200, and the 21-track AfterLyfë seems likely to join it in the chart’s top 10. The album’s lone high-profile guest is the YoungBoy Never Broke Again guest spot on “Shmunk,” however, and it has no physical release currently available for sale.
IN THE MIX
Don Toliver, Love Sick (Cactus Jack/Atlantic): Rapper-singer Don Toliver has been a ubiquitous supporting actor in hip-hop over the past year, showing up on Hot 100 hits from Billboard 200-topping albums by Pusha T (“Scrape It Off” from It’s Almost Dry), Metro Boomin (“Too Many Nights” from Heroes and Villains) and SZA (“Used” from SOS). Now he gets his own shot with Love Sick, which follows 2021’s No. 2-peaking Life of a Don and boasts guest appearances from Justin Bieber, Future, Lil Durk, Brent Faiyaz and other big names.
Godsmack, Lighting Up the Sky (BMG): It’s been two decades since the Massachusetts hard rock band was at its commercial peak, but Godsmack remains a reliable performer on the Billboard 200, sending each of its past six albums to the chart’s top 10. Lighting Up the Sky is the group’s first release since 2018’s No. 8-peaking When Legends Rise – the longest gap between albums in Godsmack’s career — and contains their 12th No. 1 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Airplay chart with lead single “I Surrender.”
Gracie Abrams, Good Riddance (Interscope): Gracie Abrams has long cultivated a reputation as your favorite singer-songwriter’s favorite singer-songwriter, and this February she finally put out her debut album, Good Riddance. The album does not yet have any major chart hits to its credit, but it comes with chart-topping pedigree in its primary artistic partner, writer-producer Aaron Dessner – whose frequent collaborator Taylor Swift is taking Abrams out on her impossibly anticipated The Eras Tour this spring.
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