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 Nov. 26): Two of the most historic names in rap and rock compete with a solo Directioner, as each of them try to knock Taylor Swift’s Midnights and Drake and 21 Savage’s Her Loss out of the top two spots.
Louis Tomlinson, Faith in the Future (BMG): Back in early 2020, Louis Tomlinson became the last of the five One Direction alums to release a solo album with the No. 9-peaking Walls. He seems likely to return to the top 10 next week with sophomore set Faith in the Future, released last Friday (Nov. 11), which Tomlinson recently described to Billboard as “the record I always wanted to make.”
Helping Tomlinson’s sales total for the new album will be a wide variety of physical options for sale: 10 vinyl variants (including a signed one), a Newbury Comics-exclusive CD with a signed insert, a Target-exclusive CD, a zine CD deluxe package, and even three cassettes.
Bruce Springsteen, Only the Strong Survive (Columbia): Only a handful of artists in history have visited the top of the Billboard 200 more often than The Boss, who has 11 No. 1 albums ranging from 1980’s The River to 2014’s High Hopes. Can he get there again with a new set of covers? He’ll try with Only the Strong Survive, which honors what Springsteen calls “the great American songbook of the ’60s and ’70s,” including classics made famous by Jerry Butler, Ben E. King and The Temptations.
He almost did once already. We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, a tribute to folk legend Pete Seeger, peaked at No. 3 in 2006 — and every album of newly recorded studio material released by Springsteen so far this century has reached the chart’s top three.
Nas, King’s Disease III (Mass Appeal): Nas received acclaim for the first two installments of his King’s Disease series, both recorded with producer Hit-Boy — including a pair of top five entries on the Billboard 200 and a Grammy nomination each for best rap album, with the first set even giving the rapper his first Grammy win in 2019.
We’ll need to wait another year to find out if King’s Disease III can make it three-for-three with the Grammy recognition, but next week we’ll see if it can match the chart success of the first two. But unlike the first two sets, which boasted guest appearances from the starry likes of Lil Durk, Eminem and Ms. Lauryn Hill, King’s Disease III includes no big features.
In the Mix
GloRilla, Anyways, Life’s Great… (CMG/Interscope): GloRilla is one of this year’s hip-hop breakout success stories, with a pair of vicious Hot 100 hits in HitKidd collab “F.N.F.” and Cardi B teamup “Tomorrow 2,” and now a Grammy nomination for the former in best rap performance. Both songs are featured on her debut EP, Anyways, Life’s Great…, along with seven other hard-hitting tracks to prime audiences for one of the most-anticipated rap debut albums of the next few years.
Rauw Alejandro, Saturno (Sony Music Latin/Duars): Few Latin pop stars outside of his “Party” collaborator Bad Bunny have been as visible on the Billboard charts recently as Rauw Alejandro, who scored his first Hot 100 top 40 hit last year with “Todo de Ti” and has kept the momentum going in 2022 with hits like “Desperados” and “Lokera.” It’s led to the release of his high-octane third studio album, Saturno, which features Alejandro motoring down the same dark, neon-lit sonic highways as The Weeknd’s last couple efforts.
Wizkid, More Love, Less Ego (Starboy/RCA): It’s been a slow and steady trek to global domination for Afrobeats star Wizkid, who topped the Hot 100 in 2016 as a guest on Drake’s “One Dance” and hit the top 10 as a lead artist in 2021 with the unstoppable “Essence.” The Nigerian star takes another victory lap with this month’s More Love, Less Ego, boosted by an internationally streamed live performance in London this Monday, hosted by Apple Music.
Guns N’ Roses, Use Your Illusion (UMG): Guns N’ Roses‘ dual album set of Use Your Illusion I & II debuted in the top two spots of the Billboard 200 back in October 1991 — with II inching past its counterpart. The two sets are combined on this month’s Use Your Illusion (Super Deluxe) box set of seven CDs and 12 LPs, including two early-’90s live shows, while CD and vinyl reissues of each of the individual UYI sets are also available for purchase.