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 Billboard 200 albums chart dated Dec. 24): Just before the last Christmas push, a final ‘S.O.S.’ from the pop world aims to sleigh the competition.
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SZA, S.O.S. (Top Dawg Entertainment/RCA). It’s been five years and countless false starts since R&B superstar SZA dropped her massively influential full-length debut Ctrl. Early signs from the release of her second album S.O.S. indicate that the fans have stuck around: the set dominated the daily Spotify and Apple Music charts over the weekend, while drawing reviews strong enough to make a lot of early December year-end lists look premature.
With no physical release on the schedule, the vast majority of the album’s first-week numbers will mostly come from streaming. But with 23 tracks, including a trio of proven singles in Billboard Hot 100 top 20 hits “Good Days,” “I Hate U’ and “Shirt,” plus guest appearances from Travis Scott and Phoebe Bridgers, it should still end up scoring one of the late year’s strongest debuts.
A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, Me vs. Myself (Highbridge the Label/Atlantic). A Boogie Wit da Hoodie was one of the most prolific artists on the Billboard charts at the turn of the decade, with a couple dozen Hot 100 hits and a Billboard 200 No. 1 album in 2018’s Hoodie SZN. The past two years haven’t been as kind commercially, but the artist born Artist Dubose looks to reverse that trend with the release of fourth studio album Me vs. Myself.
Me vs. Myself will also need to lean on streaming , since it, too, has no physical version and A Boogie has never sold much music – Hoodie SZN was the first album to top the Billboard 200 with sales of under 1,000 copies. But MvM will also get a boost from its 22-song tracklist, with features from fellow streaming stars Kodak Black, Lil Durk, Roddy Ricch.
Anuel AA, LLNM2 (Real Hasta la Muerte/Sony Latin). As with SZA and A Boogie, Latin trap hitmaker Anuel AA’s latest effort arrives without a physical product – but it has a tracklist expansive enough to make both S.O.S. and Me vs. Myself look like EPs by comparison. LLMN2 (short for “Las Leyendas Nunca Mueren 2,” or “Legends Never Die 2”) runs a bountiful 33 tracks, with big-name guests from both reggaetón (Nicky Jam, Jowell & Randy, Zion) and hip-hop (DaBaby, Lil Durk, Kodak Black).
Anuel’s hit the Billboard 200 top 10 twice already, with 2020’s Emmanuel (No. 8) and 2021’s Ozuna teamup Los Dioses (No. 10), but 2021’s first Las Leyendas Nunca Mueren release peaked at No. 30. That album had just 16 tracks, so maybe going with the volume-shooter approach for its sequel will net him the top 10 hat trick.
Just a few days after Georgia Holt died at 96 on Dec. 10, Cher is giving more information on her mother’s death. After noting that she “can’t sleep very well,” on Twitter on Tuesday (Dec. 13), the “Believe” singer explained that Holt has “been Sick & rallying, she then got bad, She was in so much pain.” Cher continued, “Finally she coded on way to [the hospital]. By time we […]
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