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The Contenders: Will Christmas Come Early to the Billboard 200?

Holiday albums from Michael Bublé, Mariah Carey and the Vince Guaraldi Trio may come dashing through the charts next week.

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. 10): Tis the season for holiday albums to invade the top of the charts, but albums from Taylor Swift, Drake and 21 Savage, and Bad Bunny could push back the tree-lighting for a week.  

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Michael Bublé, Christmas (143/Reprise): It’s beginning to look a lot like Michael Bublé season on the Billboard 200 once again. The 21st century crooner peaks his head into the chart’s top tier this week with his 2011 Christmas set, which climbs 19-10 on the listing dated Dec. 3, and should continue its ascent in the weeks to come.  

Christmas, featuring Bublé’s velvety versions of holiday standards like “Jingle Bells,” “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” and “White Christmas” (the latter a duet with Shania Twain), is no stranger to the top of the Billboard 200: The album spent five weeks at No. 1 across 2011 and 2012, and finished No. 2 on the Year-End Billboard 200 for 2012, behind Adele’s 21. Last holiday season, Adele was once again the Grinch who stole the Christmas No. 1, as Bublé’s album rose to No. 2 on the Billboard 200 dated Jan. 1, 2022, after her 30.  

This year Bublé will face a different challenger: Taylor Swift’s Midnights, which has reigned on the Billboard 200 for four of the past five weeks, posting equivalent album units in the six digits each frame. Time will tell if the Christmas spirit is strong enough to prevail. (Last holiday season, Christmas‘ biggest one-week unit sum was 77,000.)

Mariah Carey, Merry Christmas (Columbia): No artist of the last 30 years is as synonymous with the holiday season as Mariah Carey. However, while Carey’s Billboard Hot 100 dominance has become an annual event – her perennial “All I Want for Christmas Is You” has bested the chart each of the last three holiday seasons, ruling for a combined eight weeks – she has yet to top the Billboard 200 with that single’s parent album.  

Merry Christmas climbed as high as No. 3 when it came out in 1994 – Kenny G’s less enduring seasonal set Miracles: The Holiday Album ruled the Dec. 17 chart – but has yet to return to a higher perch than No. 4, which it reached on the chart dated Jan. 4, 2020. (The album’s sequel, Merry Christmas II You, also reached No. 4 upon its Nov. 2010 release.) This week, Merry Christmas jumps 40-19 — still behind Bublé, but you can never count out the Queen of Christmas.  

Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas Soundtrack (Fantasy): It’s not all seasonal pop standards on the Billboard 200:  The sentimental pull of jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi’s 1965 soundtrack to the classic A Charlie Brown Christmas special spans generations, and makes the set an annual chart contender in the streaming era. The album hit the Billboard 200’s top 10 for the first time two holiday seasons ago, on the chart dated Jan. 2, 2021, then reached a new peak of No. 6 on the Jan. 1 chart this year. Now it’s once again on the rise, climbing from No. 43 to No. 17 on this week’s chart.  

IN THE MIX 

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Live at the Fillmore 1997 (Warner): This new 58-track live set from Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, which spans the group’s 20-night residency at the storied San Francisco venue a quarter-century ago and is available in 2-CD and 3-LP regular editions, 4-CD and 6-LP deluxe editions, plus a limited edition 6xLP Uber Deluxe — should also make a sizeable debut.  

Quando Rondo and YoungBoy Never Broke Again, 3860 (Quando Rondo, LLC/Never Broke Again/Atlantic): It’s been five whole weeks since we last covered YoungBoy Never Broke Again in The Contenders, but before the holidays get into full swing, he’s got one more set to sneak into his already project-strewn 2022. This time, it’s a collaborative mixtape with fellow southern rapper Quando Rondo, who is signed to YoungBoy’s label (called Never Broke Again), and takes center stage on the release, with solo showcases on five of its 16 tracks.  

Brockhampton, TM (Question Everything/RCA): Brockhampton pulled double duty last week with a pair of farewell releases, The Family and TM. The former set debuted at No. 15 on the most recent Billboard 200 (dated Dec. 3), but the latter was nowhere to be found – a state of affairs that should change this week, as sales of signed CDs available on the band’s website will likely boost the set’s totals to charting levels.