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Will It Be Their First Billboard 200 No. 1?

February 28, 2024 - Music

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The Contenders is 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 dated Mar. 9), a star K-pop group aims to end Kanye West’s & Ty Dolla $ign’s two-week Vultures 1 reign on the albums chart. 

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TWICE, With You-th (JYP/Republic): They’ve been one of Korean pop’s biggest acts for over a half-decade now, with best-selling albums in their home country, worldwide arena and stadium tours, and even a couple entries on the Billboard Hot 100. But nine-piece girl group TWICE has yet to secure a No. 1 album on the Billboard 200: They’ve reached the top three with each of their last three efforts, but have still not gotten any higher than No. 2, achieved last March with Ready to Be (held off from the apex by Morgan Wallen’s blockbuster One Thing at a Time set in its second week).  

Next week, the runway may be clear for the nonet to finally take off to the spot. TWICE is the biggest-name contemporary outfit to release a new set last Friday (Feb. 23) — the EP With You-th — and with Kanye West and Ty Dolla $ign’s Vultures fading in its third week, the bar for No. 1 should not be an unusually high one for the group to need to clear.  

With You-th‘s sales should be considerable, thanks in part to its availability in 14 different CD variants (including exclusives for Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart and the act’s webstore, all with branded paper merch inside the packages as well as randomized merch), as well as three additional vinyl variants (all picture discs, one being a Target exclusive). Streaming numbers may not be quite as robust for the set, given its six-track length, but in a slower release week it may not need much activity there to secure the top debut.  

French Montana, Mac & Cheese 5 (Coke Boys/gamma): It’s been a little while since French Montana was one of the biggest names in mainstream rap – his only appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 so far this decade came alongside Diddy, The Weeknd and 21 Savage on the No. 87-peaking “Another One of Me.” But he remains an industry fixture, as evidenced by the guest list on his new mixtape Mac & Cheese 5, which includes appearances from such A-list names as Rick Ross, Lil Baby, Lil Durk and even a pair of appearances from current Billboard 200-topper Kanye West.  

He may provide some competition for his chart-topping collaborator on the 200 this week. Mac & Cheese 5 may not be a major streamer – the set will be helped by its features and its length (21 tracks in its standard edition, 22 in its deluxe, and a staggering 126-track Versions edition with clean, explicit, a cappella, instrumental, sped-up and slowed-down versions of each track), but it has yet to produce a real runaway hit there. It should sell pretty well, however — given its availability in three different CD and vinyl variants (all discounted to $5), as well as three signed-CD variants for $10 each, all for sale exclusively via Montana’s Coke Boys webstore.

Le Sserafim, Easy (Source/YG Plus/Geffen): TWICE aren’t the only major Korean girl group to have a new EP out this week: Hitmakers Le Sserafim are also back on the scene with their new five-track set Easy. Their set also should post good sales, boosted by a number of available variants – 14 CD versions, including exclusives for Barnes & Noble, Target and Walmart, all with branded paper merch inside the packages as well as randomized merch. The quintet may also have something of a breakout hit from the set in its title track, which debuts at No. 73 on the Global 200 this week, and is still hanging around the Spotify Daily Top Songs USA chart.  

IN THE MIX 

Olivia Rodrigo, Guts (Geffen): Olivia Rodrigo’s acclaimed sophomore effort – our staff’s No. 1 album of 2023 — already topped the Billboard 200 for a week last September, and has lingered not too far from the top ever since, landing at No. 23 on this week’s listing. It may get a good bump next week, thanks to the start of her Guts World Tour, which kicked off in southern California over the weekend and continues through Texas this week – not only electrifying fans in those locations, but also tantalizing potential attendees from all over the country, who have been devouring clips of Rodrigo’s first-ever arena headlining dates on social media.  

Ace Frehley, 10,000 Volts (MNRK): The Spaceman is back. Guitar legend Ace Frehley did not appear with KISS on their End of the Road World Tour – supposedly the group’s final-ever live trek, ending in December 2023 – but he returns this week with his first album of originals since 2018. The 11-track set, released amidst back-and-forth swiping between Frehley and his former bandmates, is available in at least 11 vinyl variants, as well as a standard CD digipack and jewel case, and a Walmart exclusive with a lenticular cover.  

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