Will Morgan Wallen Fend Off No. 1 Challenges From Miley Cyrus and TWICE On The Billboard 200?
In this week's The Contenders: Cyrus' Endless Summer Vacation is the highest-profile new release, but a global sensation's new EP might have the best shot at dethroning Wallen's juggernaut.
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 March 25), a longtime stateside household name and a growing global force will compete against Morgan Wallen’s blockbuster in its second week.
Miley Cyrus, Endless Summer Vacation (Columbia): You might expect Miley Cyrus’ new album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Cyrus has been a household name for 15 years, and she’s coming off her biggest Billboard Hot 100 hit with the six-week No. 1 “Flowers” — and her new album has largely been met with critical acclaim and positive fan response since its Friday release.
Despite her continued stardom, however, Cyrus has not scored a No. 1 album since 2013’s Bangerz, with her most recent effort (2021’s Plastic Hearts) debuting at No. 2 with 60,000 equivalent album units. A number anywhere near that range would probably not be enough to dethrone Morgan Wallen’s One Thing at a Time, which debuted at No. 1 with 501,000 units on the Billboard 200 dated March 18. Even if One Thing posts only 40% of that in its second week, that would still be over three times Plastic Hearts’ first-week tally.
Vacation is expected to do better than Hearts, though – helped not only by the continued success of “Flowers” (which holds at No. 2 on the Hot 100 dated March 18) and strong early returns for follow-up single “River,” but also by a variety of physical releases. That includes four vinyl variants (including one exclusive to Target and two exclusive to her web store) and two deluxe box sets exclusive to her web store — one with a puzzle and a CD, the other with a beach towel and a CD.
TWICE, Ready to Be (JYP/Republic): Though it may not have name recognition as wide as Cyrus in the United States, Korean girl group TWICE may be just as big a threat to Wallen’s place atop the Billboard 200. TWICE has reached the chart’s No. 3 spot, well, twice: with 2021 LP Formula of Love: O+T=<3 and 2022 EP Between 1&2. The latter moved over 100,000 units in its first week, thanks largely to robust physical sales numbers that demonstrated the group’s devoted and expanding U.S. fanbase.
TWICE, which received the Breakthrough Artist award at Billboard’s 2023 Women in Music event, could do even better with its first EP of 2023, Ready to Be. The seven-track set includes the group’s second-ever Hot 100 hit, “Moonlight Sunrise,” and is available in a whopping 11 CD variants (including multiple exclusives for Barnes & Noble and the group’s webstore, and one for Target), each with randomized elements like photo cards and folded posters, as well as two vinyl LP variants.
IN THE MIX
Meghan Trainor, Takin’ It Back (Epic): If not for Cyrus, the most noteworthy comeback by a 2010s pop star would be that of bubblegum revivalist Meghan Trainor, whose TikTok-boosted single “Made You Look” became her biggest Hot 100 hit since 2016 when it peaked at No. 11 in February. This week, that single’s album, Takin’ It Back (which debuted at No. 16 on the Billboard 200 last November), could reenter the chart, thanks to the release of its new deluxe edition, which boasts four new tracks, including the “Mr. Sandman”-sampling follow-up single “Mother.”