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Will Seventeen Finally Be the Act to Edge Out Morgan Wallen On the Billboard 200?  

In this week's The Contenders, boy band SEVENTEEN are the latest Korean pop stars to square off for No. 1 with Morgan Wallen's One Thing at a Time.

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 charts dated May 12), after sets from a pair of BTS alums fall just short of matching the totals of Morgan Wallen’s Billboard 200 juggernaut, a 13-strong K-pop group looks to take their crack at it.  


SEVENTEEN, 10th Mini Album ‘FML’ (Pledis/YG Plus): It’s a showdown we’ve seen time and time again on the Billboard 200 in recent years: a lengthy album from an artist who dominates streaming vs. a much shorter set from an artist who sells an exceptional amount of physical copies. Many of the albums from the latter category are from K-pop, and we have another entrant this week in the form of the 13-member boy band SEVENTEEN’s latest mini-album, FML.  

The group has climbed closer to the Billboard 200’s apex with each successive release, including a pair of top 10 efforts last year with 4th Album: Face the Sun (No. 7 in June) and that set’s extended repackaged reissue, Sector 17 (No. 4 in August). Helping their sales numbers this time will be an array of different CDs — 14 total, including different exclusives for the act’s official webstore, Barnes & Noble, Target and the Weverse store; all with a standard set of items packaged inside and additional randomized items like postcards, mini posters, bookmarks and stickers. There are also 17 different alternative digital albums on their webstore, each with a different cover. Four of them have two bonus tracks – one instrumental version, one voice member from certain group members – that are different on each album. The remaining 13 alternative digital albums all have the standard tracklist, just with a different cover (one for each of the group members). 

The bar for SEVENTEEN to hit No. 1 might be slightly lower than it was for BTS alums Jimin and Suga last month, as Morgan Wallen’s mighty One Thing at a Time slips below 150,000 equivalent album units for the first time in its eight weeks at No. 1 with its 149,000 May 6 chart (reflecting the tracking week ending April 27). If they can accomplish the feat, SEVENTEEN would become the second Korean pop group to top the Billboard 200 in 2023, following TOMORROW X TOGETHER, which did so in February with The Name Chapter: Temptation in February. 

Jack Harlow, Jackman. (Generation Now/Atlantic): Louisville rapper Jack Harlow made the leap to pop stardom last year with his Billboard Hot 100-topping, Fergie-sampling crossover smash “First Class,” which was followed by the album Come Home the Kids Miss You. Though the star-studded affair – featuring appearances from A-listers Drake, Lil Wayne, Pharrell and Justin Timberlake – peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, it was poorly received critically and failed to produce a second hit on the level of “First Class.”  

Harlow went in a different direction for last week’s semi-surprise-released Jackman., announced just days earlier and titled after his full first name. The set includes just 10 tracks, with no guests or any big pop samples or interpolations that littered his prior album. The currently digital-only set – Harlow’s webstore also has a pre-sale of limited-edition green vinyl version available for August – may not quite do the kind of robust streaming numbers as its predecessor with no big features or previously released hits, but it is drawing much better reviews.  


The National, First Two Pages of Frankenstein (4AD): Cincinnati-via-Brooklyn indie rock vets The National are regular visitors to the Billboard 200’s top 5, having reached there with four consecutive albums dating back to 2010’s High Violet, most recently with 2019’s No. 5-peaking I Am Easy to Find. A not-so-secret weapon on the new First Two Pages of Frankenstein could help make it five straight: Taylor Swift, now a regular collaborator of band co-founder Aaron Dessner, who features on the album’s “The Alcott.”  

Grateful Dead, Dave’s Picks Volume 46 (Rhino): Another season, another transmission from the live archives of rock’s most storied jam band. This three-disc set – available in a limited edition of 25,000 copies, as usual for Dave’s Picks – is taken from the Grateful Dead‘s 1972 gig at the Hollywood Palladium, with some copies also including a bonus fourth disc of songs from ‘72 shows in Roosevelt Stadium in New Jersey and Folson Field in Colorado.  

Illenium, Illenium (Warner): The star EDM DJ-producer is better known for his impressive live show – which he’s taking to arenas and stadiums this summer – but Illenium has also had three Billboard 200-charting albums, with the most recent (2021’s Fallen Embers) peaking at No. 49. His new self-titled album is more rock-influenced, and the chart returns so far have been positive, with all seven of its pre-release advance tracks reaching the top 20 of Billboard’s Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart.