The Contenders: Could TOMORROW X TOGETHER Capture Its First Billboard 200 No. 1?
The rising Korean pop stars' latest EP leads a spate of new releases that also includes Sam Smith and Lil Yachty.
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 Feb. 11), SZA’s seven-week Billboard 200 No. 1 SOS faces new competition from best-selling K-pop stars TOMORROW X TOGETHER and career-reinventing albums from Sam Smith and Lil Yachty.
TOMORROW X TOGETHER, The Name Chapter: Temptation (Big Hit/Republic): A five-song EP from a Korean pop group that’s yet to notch a Billboard Hot 100 hit might seem like an unlikely challenger to SZA’s continued Billboard 200 domination. But don’t underestimate the selling power of TOMORROW X TOGETHER, the rising quintet that’s already reached the top five of the Billboard 200 albums chart twice this decade (with 2021 LP The Chaos Chapter: Freeze and 2022 EP Minisode 2: Thursday’s Child), thanks to a devoted fanbase willing to spend on physical albums – sometimes in multiple variants.
Plenty of those variants are available this week for new EP The Name Chapter: Temptation, with 14 collectible deluxe CD packages — including exclusive versions for Barnes & Noble, Target and the group’s Weverse webstore, and a signed version via its own official U.S. webstore. Interest in those physical copies is still growing: TXT’s label, Big Hit, reported over 2 million pre-orders worldwide for the new EP.
Sam Smith, Gloria (Capitol): Arguably the most-anticipated major pop release of January arrived last Friday (Jan. 27) with longtime top 40 fixture Sam Smith’s Gloria. The album is Smith’s first since 2020’s Love Goes, and comes off the back of the first Hot 100 No. 1 hit of their career in the Kim Petras collab “Unholy.” With massive buzz-building on TikTok, a harder-edged sound and more sexually suggestive lyrics, the single appeared to successfully modernize Smith for the 2020s.
While the ongoing success of “Unholy” will give Gloria a helpful head start on streaming, whether it will lead the album to a greater chart finish than the No. 5-peaking Love Goes remains to be seen. By mid-week, the only Gloria tracks remaining on Spotify’s Daily Top Songs USA chart were “Unholy” and the New Music Friday-leading Calvin Harris and Jessie Reyez collab “I’m Not Here to Make Friends,” while the full set ranks fifth on the iTunes albums sales chart. The album is also available in three vinyl variants — with one a Target exclusive (also available in CD) with two bonus tracks – and in a signed CD via Smith’s webstore.
Lil Yachty, Let’s Start Here (Concrete/Quality Control/Motown): While Atlanta rap star Lil Yachty is coming off his biggest hit of the 2020s in the TikTok-powered “Poland,” the buzzing trap of that 83-second single is hardly indicative of the psychedelic space rock found on his fifth album, Let’s Start Here. The sonic left turn, featuring contributions from renowned alternative artists like Mac DeMarco, Alex G and Foushée, has drawn mixed reviews but heavy online discussion, and may challenge for Yachty’s first top 10 album on the Billboard 200 since 2018’s Lil Boat 2.
IN THE MIX
The Grateful Dead, Dave’s Picks, Vol. 45 (Rhino): The latest in the legendary jam band’s Dave’s Picks series, which features live shows selected by Grateful Dead archivist David Lemieux, features a two-date 1977 stop at the Paramount Theater in Portland, Ore. Each of the last five Dave’s Picks have charted in the Nos. 11-15 range on the Billboard 200 and the Dead are still looking for their first top 10 on the chart since In the Dark hit No. 6 in 1987.
Elle King, Come Get Your Wife (RCA): A breakout star in the mid-’10s for jaunty rock crossover hit “Ex’s & Oh’s.” singer-songwriter Elle King decamped to Nashville and embraced country with third album, Come Get Your Wife. So far, so good for King: The 2021 Miranda Lambert collab “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home),” found on Wife, topped Billboard’s Country Airplay chart and became her first Hot 100 top 40 hit since “Ex’s.”
Tyler Hubbard, Tyler Hubbard (Hubbard House/EMI): As one-half of Florida Georgia Line, Tyler Hubbard was a regular visitor to the top of Billboard’s country charts, and topped the Billboard 200 with the duo’s 2014 sophomore album, Anything Goes. He didn’t need long into his solo career to establish his own chart-topping prowess: His first unaccompanied single, “5 Foot 9,” featured on his self-titled solo debut album, bested Country Airplay last November.
Bob Dylan, Fragments—Time Out of Mind Sessions (1996-1997) The Bootleg Series, Vol. 17 (Legacy Records): With the 25th anniversary approaching of Bob Dylan’s album of the year win for Time Out of Mind at the ’98 Grammys, his latest Bootleg Series installment revisits that comeback effort with a remix of the original set and bonus outtakes, alternate versions and live cuts. The set, which originally peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard 200 in 1997, comes in two-CD and five-CD editions, as well as four-LP and 10-LP box sets.