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. 18), as TOMRROW X TOGETHER’s new EP drops in sales in its second week, new albums from Shania Twain and Raye look to seize the Billboard 200’s top spot, with SZA’s SOS still lurking.
Shania Twain, Queen of Me (Republic): Few artists in the history of popular music have a resumé of hit albums to match Shania Twain’s: She’s released three RIAA Diamond-certified albums, including 1997’s double-Diamond Come on Over. No one would expect her Queen of Me, released Friday (Feb. 3), to reach similar sales heights decades later — though her last album, 2017’s Now, topped the Billboard 200, albeit with a ticket bundle that undoubtedly contributed to her first-week sales of 134,000.
After Gaining ‘Complete Control’ of Her Career, RAYE Is Enjoying Her…
Twain won’t receive any such boost for Queen of Me — those bundles were eliminated from Billboard chart calculations in Oct. 2020. But she will be helped by multiple vinyl and CD variants, including exclusives for both Target and Walmart (the Target CD has 2 bonus tracks, while Walmart’s CD has an alternate cover). Her webstore and indie retail are also selling a signed CD, while her webstore also has a couple of deluxe box set editions with a signed CD and T-shirt inside. Plus, she’s still riding the momentum from her Netflix documentary Not Just a Girl, which resulted in a catalog-wide spike for the country-pop legend last August.
Raye, My 21st Century Blues (Human Re Sources): After going through a high-profile dispute and breakup with former label Polydor, British soul-pop singer-songwriter Raye went indie and landed the biggest global hit of her career, with the 070 Shake-assisted (and TikTok-launched) heartbreak lament “Escapism.” That single has topped the U.K.’s Official Charts and climbed to No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100, setting the stage for her debut studio album My 21st Century Blues.
Raye has a couple of vinyl of variants available for Blues, including a signed edition sold on her webstore as well as a signed CD and a cassette tape that are also listed for sale there. She and Twain are already locked into a battle for No. 1 in the U.K., so it’s possible that any additional measures — including extra last-minute new promotions and album variants — will spill into their race on the Billboard 200.
Harry Styles, Harry’s House (Erskine/Columbia): The album of the year winner at Sunday’s Grammys may see a gain on the charts this week thanks to renewed streaming interest: Second single “Late Night Talking” was the biggest mover on Spotify’s US Daily Top 200 on Monday, while four other songs re-entered the chart. The album currently sits at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, so the increase will likely be enough to at least get it back into the chart’s top 10. (Beyoncé’s Renaissance is currently 11 spots below it at No. 24 — and in addition to the boost it should receive post-Grammys, that album will also benefit from a spate of “Cuff It” remixes recently released for sale on Bey’s webstore, which were also just made available on digital retailers this Wednesday.)
Lower on the chart, another artist should also benefit from a Grammy bump: best new artist winner Samara Joy. While she’s unlikely to contend in the Styles-Beyoncé regions of the chart, her Linger Awhile album should appear somewhere this week, marking her first-ever entry on the Billboard 200.
UPDATE: The rollout of Billboard/Vibe’s Top 50 Greatest Rappers of All Time continues with this week’s reveal of our top 10 rappers. The Greatest of All Time, aka the GOAT. That’s a distinguished — and also contentious — honor when it comes to ranking who or what is the ultimate best, whether you’re talking films, TV shows, restaurants or any other subject. In early 2023, Billboard/Vibe is ranking the Top […]
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