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 Feb. 4), SZA’s SOS remains in the driver’s seat on the Billboard 200 albums chart, but runs into new albums by country hitmaker HARDY, prolific rapper Trippie Redd and rock revivalists Måneskin.
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HARDY, The Mockingbird & The Crow (Big Loud). Few country radio fixtures know as much about how to succeed in an era dominated by hip-hop- and streaming as Michael Wilson Hardy. The genre-blending singer-songwriter has collaborated with countless artists, released several mixtapes, and generally been as prolific as any popular rapper over the past half-decade – while remaining a steady chart presence, with Hot 100 top 40 hits in the past year alongside Breland and Dierks Bentley (“Beers on Me”) and Lainey Wilson (“Wait in the Truck.”)
The latter single can be found on HARDY’s 17-track The Mockingbird & The Crow set, released last Friday (Jan. 27), as part of the album’s country-oriented A-side – with its second half taking on a hard rock bent. The album appears to be selling well digitally, leading the iTunes albums chart for most of the week. If it does claim the Billboard 200’s No. 1 position, it would be the first country album to do so since Dangerous: The Double Album, the blockbuster 2021 chart-topper from Morgan Wallen – who, incidentally, is also featured on Mockingbird’s “Red.”
Trippie Redd, Mansion Musik (1400 Entertainment/10K Projects). One of the great volume shooters of hip-hop’s past five years, Trippie Redd returned from an unusually lengthy two-year album break last week with the 25-track Mansion Musik. The set consists entirely of previously unreleased material, and is predictably loaded with A-list guests, including Future, Lil Baby, Travis Scott, Lil Durk, and even the late Juice WRLD — who appears on “Knight Crawler,” which led Spotify’s most recent New Music Friday playlist. Each of Trippie’s past six full-length projects have reached the Billboard 200’s top five, and Mansion Musik should have a good chance to extend its streak to seven.
Måneskin, Rush (Epic/Sony). Italian fourpiece Måneskin parlayed a Eurovision win into global rock stardom in 2021 – boosted by TikTok-accelerated crossover success for a cover of The Four Seasons’ “Beggin’” and a series of incendiary live performances on U.S. television. About a year and a half later, the band has finally released its English-language debut album Rush, featuring their rock radio hit “Supermodel” and contributions from pop-rock super-writer-producers like Rami Yacoub, Mattman & Robin and Max Martin.
Måneskin are still relatively modest performers among big hitmakers when it comes to U.S. streaming, so their Billboard 200 performance will likely largely be dictated by sales. To that end, the quartet has released a variety of physical variants of Rush, with vinyl, CD and cassette versions, and a box set edition that collects all three formats, along with a poster and 64-page photobook. The group has also made old-fashioned record store promotional appearances during the album’s release week, including New York-area shops Rough Trade NYC and Looney Tunes.
IN THE MIX
Ice Spice, Like…? (10K Projects/Capitol): One of the most buzzed-about new rappers of 2022 arrives with her first EP, named after her “Like..?” mini-catchphrase. The six-track set includes Ice Spice‘s internet-conquering breakout tracks “Munch (Feelin’ U)” and “Bikini Bottom,” as well as the new, Lil Tjay-featuring “Gangsta Boo,” and the currently ascending TikTok favorite “In Ha Mood.”
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Déjà Vu (Atlantic): Following the death of ‘60s rock legend David Crosby, the enduring material he was involved with as part of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young have naturally surged in sales and streams. The biggest beneficiary so far appears to be CSNY’s 1970 classic Déjà Vu, featuring signature songs like “Teach Your Children,” “Our House” and “Helpless” — though the latter is one of several Déjà Vu tracks not currently available on Spotify, due to songwriter Neil Young’s continued protests of the streaming service.
Drake and 21 Savage stunt on the competition on both Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay and Rhythmic Airplay charts, as their single “Rich Flex” ascends to a dual domination on the charts dated Jan. 28. The new coronations extend Drake’s records as the artist with the most No. 1s on both charts, while 21 Savage earns his second champ on the former and fourth leader on the latter. On R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, “Rich […]
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