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 April 15), Melanie Martinez’s third album contends for the week’s highest Billboard 200 debut, along with a rock supergroup’s debut LP and a star rapper’s reissue of an already-twice-chart-topping set.
Melanie Martinez, Portals (Atlantic): After a series of cryptic social media teases and a slow trickle of new songs — including lead single “Death,” her first Billboard Hot 100 hit since her days competing on The Voice over a decade ago — Melanie Martinez released her third album, Portals, on March 31. It’s her first since 2019’s K-12, which debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, and its release was followed by the Monday (April 3) announcement of her first concerts since the pandemic forced an early end to her tour supporting that album.
Martinez is taking advantage of her rabid fanbase — known as the Cry Babies, named after her 2015 debut album — by making a stunning variety of physical variants available for purchase. That includes six vinyl LPs (with exclusives in color variants for Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart and Urban Outfitters), one standard CD, one signed CD on her webstore, two CDs with lenticular covers, two CDs with alternative covers, four CDs with “puzzle” covers for indie stores and four deluxe box sets with either a tank top or a shirt along with a CD. (The set was also reissued in a deluxe edition this morning, digitally and to streamers, with three new bonus tracks.)
Martinez will need all the help she can get to compete with Morgan Wallen’s One Thing at a Time, still holding at No. 1 in its fifth week on the chart. Though One Thing finally dipped below the 200,000 equivalent album units threshold last week (with 197,000 units in the week ending March 30 in the United States, according to Luminate), that’s still over three times the units Martinez moved in her best-ever week to date, when K-12 debuted with 57,000 units in 2019.
Tyler, the Creator, Call Me If You Get Lost (Columbia): Tyler, the Creator’s Grammy-winning sixth studio album has actually already gone to No. 1 twice, in two separate years — first in July 2021 when it debuted atop the Billboard 200 following its initial release, then again in April 2022 after the vinyl was belatedly released, initially exclusively through his webstore. Could it go three-for-three in 2023?
It may at least get within striking distance, as Tyler reissued the set last Friday as Call Me If You Get Lost: The Estate Sale. The updated edition, available for purchase on CD through his webstore, contains eight bonus tracks originally recorded for the album, with new music videos for several of the newly released cuts (and one for the original tracklist’s “Hot Wind Blows”). Metrics for the reissued version of the album will be grouped with the standard edition, meaning the album will see a huge jump from No. 137 (its current position on the Billboard 200) next week.
And though there is no vinyl release yet for The Estate Sale, it’s currently available for vinyl pre-order on Tyler’s website for “Fall 2023” — meaning that even if it doesn’t get there this week, the album might still have at least one more real chance to return to the Billboard 200’s apex this year.
boygenius, The Record (Interscope): The much-hyped super trio of acclaimed indie singer-songwriters Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus finally followed up its self-titled 2018 EP with a full-length album on Friday, unassumingly titled The Record. Though none of boygenius’ solo members have yet come particularly close to topping the Billboard 200 — Julien Baker’s Little Oblivions has gotten the closest, with its No. 39 peak — they have collectively performed as more than the sum of their parts, and the reviews for their debut LP have been excellent. The album is now available in at least seven different-colored vinyl variants, including exclusives for indie stores, Target and Urban Outfitters.
IN THE MIX
Larry June & The Alchemist, The Great Escape (The Freeminded Records/ALC/Empire): Veteran San Francisco rapper Larry June has enjoyed something of a mid-career renaissance this decade, scoring the best Billboard 200 peak of his career (No. 39) with 2022’s Spaceships on the Blade, one of the Billboard staff’s favorite albums of last year. This week, he looks to better that via his full-album team-up with another underground favorite: producer The Alchemist, who earned a top 15 album and a Grammy nomination for his 2020 collaborative set with Freddie Gibbs, Alfredo.
Davido, Timeless (DMW/Columbia/Sony): Though Davido is one of the biggest global stars to emerge from Nigeria’s Afrobeats scene over the past decade, he’s yet to score the kind of Hot 100 crossover hit that peers like Wizkid and Tems have enjoyed this decade. Still, with Afrobeats now firmly entrenched in the U.S. mainstream, his fourth album, Timeless, is sure to get more attention stateside than any of his previous sets — and the album-release concerts he’s holding this week in New York, London and Lagos will certainly help spread the word.
Chlöe, In Pieces (Parkwood/Columbia): Chlöe Bailey, half of the sister duo Chloe x Halle, a Beyoncé protégé and a TV star since 2018, arrived on a wave of next-great-superstar hype in 2021 with her debut single “Have Mercy,” a top 30 Hot 100 hit. Things haven’t totally gone to plan since then: Her first album was delayed and subsequent singles didn’t do as well, but In Pieces finally came out on Friday, and it includes features from massive names like Chris Brown, Missy Elliott and Future.