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. 25), as SZA’s SOS starts to approach double-digit weeks atop the Billboard 200, it faces new challengers from a pair of veteran rock bands, as well as an artist whose comeback gig was just watched by over 100 million people.
Paramore, This Is Why (Atlantic): One of the year’s most-anticipated rock releases comes from longtime hitmakers Paramore, who are finishing out their Atlantic Records tenure with its sixth album, This Is Why. The band’s first full-length in six years is led by the hit title track, which recently became its first-ever Alternative Airplay No. 1, and comes on the heels of a media blitz that includes features in NPR and The New Yorker, as well as a Billboard digital cover story. (The group’s last album, 2017’s After Laughter, peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard 200, while their 2013 self-titled album topped the chart.)
This Is Why is expected to sell a significant number of physical copies, with six different vinyl variants available, as well as deluxe boxed sets that contain a T-shirt, along with either a CD or vinyl option. It will need robust sales to make up for the streaming gap between it and SZA’s SOS, which will otherwise score its ninth week atop the Billboard 200. That would break a tie to make it the longest-running No. 1 album from a female artist this decade.
Pierce the Veil, The Jaws of Life (Fearless): Pierce the Veil were one of the most commercially successful post-hardcore bands of the 2010s, and its 2016 set, Misadventures, reached No. 4 on the Billboard 200. The Jaws of Life arrives in the wake of the 2022 lead single “Pass the Nirvana” — which tied 2015’s “The Divine Sorry” as the group’s highest-ever entry on the Hot Rock Songs chart with its No. 21 peak. (It also follows a viral moment for their decade-old Kellin Quinn collaboration “King for a Day,” which took off on TikTok last August.) Jaws‘ sales should be helped by over a dozen vinyl variants available on the band’s webstore.
Rihanna, Anti (Westbury Road/Roc Nation) & Good Girl Gone Bad (Def Jam): As you may have heard, Rihanna recently broke a five-year drought of public performances with a small gig Sunday night. Her Super Bowl Halftime performance, which included over a dozen of her biggest hits was watched by 118 million viewers, many of whom unsurprisingly took to streaming services and music retailers to re-listen to several of the classics she played – and even some she didn’t, based on the way her songs are blanketing the Spotify, Apple Music and iTunes charts.
The impact of the bump for these songs will be felt on the Billboard 200, where five of her albums look set to appear this week – most, if not all, in the chart’s top half. They will likely be led by Rihanna’s two perennial biggest albums: The 2016 Anti (from which she played parts of “Work” and “Kiss It Better”) and 2007’s Good Girl Gone Bad (“Umbrella”). The two releases rank at No. 50 and No. 137 on the current Billboard 200, having spent 354 and 103 weeks on the chart, respectively.
IN THE MIX
Post Malone, Twelve Carat Toothache (Mercury/Republic): Posty’s 2022 album has remained on the Billboard 200 since its No. 2 debut in June , and it’s now at No. 99 in its 36th week on the chart. It should see big gains next week, thanks to its debut on vinyl, which is now available in multiple variants. (Post has also been all over ads for the NBA’s upcoming All-Star Weekend, held in his current home state of Utah, and the and his visibility there could help as well.)
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