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 June 4), a veteran rock group looks to score its first Billboard 200 No. 1 of the 2020s, with competition from a U.K. singer-songwriter, a couple hard rock outfits, and – of course – Morgan Wallen.
Dave Matthews Band, Walk Around the Moon (RCA): It might not be the first group that comes to mind when naming the biggest acts of the past 30 years, but few rock bands have ever enjoyed as consistent success as the Dave Matthews Band on the Billboard 200. The group has reached No. 1 with each of their last seven studio albums — a streak dating back to 1998’s Before These Crowded Streets – and hopes to make it eight with the release of last Friday’s (May 19) Walk Around the Moon, its first album of the 2020s.
However, the DMB’s chances to unseat Morgan Wallen (11 weeks and counting with his One Thing at a Time) will be impacted by a change in Billboard’s charts since the last time it released an album: the 2020 elimination of ticket bundles from Billboard 200 calculations, which previously provided a big boost to the exceedingly popular live outfit. (Recent rule changes have reintroduced “fan pack” bundles to Billboard chart calculations, but through merch rather than tickets, and with much stricter rules about eligibility.) Instead, the band will have to rely largely on physical sales — to which end, it has released multiple vinyl variants, including exclusive color variants for the band’s fan club, Barnes & Noble, independent record stores and Target.
Lewis Capaldi, Broken by Desire to Be Heavenly Sent (Vertigo/Universal/Capitol): Though Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi reached the apex of the Billboard Hot 100 with his late-’10s breakthrough hit “Someone You Loved,” he topped out at No. 20 on the Billboard 200 with debut album Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent. After a few years of steady fanbase building, he may fare a little better with sophomore set Broken by Desire to Be Heavenly Sent — which features a more modest Hot 100 success with lead single “Forget Me” (No. 58) but has multiple vinyl LPs, four CD editions and even five cassette variants available for purchase.
Summer Walker, Clear 2: Soft Life (LVRN/Interscope): R&B star Summer Walker is on her way to being one of the most consistent LP artists of her generation — 2019 debut set Over It hit No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and its 2021 sequel, Still Over It, made it to No. 1, both also drawing considerable critical acclaim – but her EP success has been less resounding, with 2020’s Life on Earth tapping out at No. 8, with no real breakout hits. Her latest EP is Clear 2: Soft Life, a nine-track offering with a pair of big-name guests in J. Cole and Childish Gambino — but again, the set’s songs have not performed on the streaming charts the way Still Over It’s tracks did in their first week, suggesting fans still want to enjoy a longer Summer.
In the Mix
Ghost, Phantomine (Loma Vista) / Sleep Token, Take Me Back to Eden (Spinefarm): The streaming era has not been particularly generous to hard rock and heavy metal, but two bands from those genres that have found real success are Ghost and Sleep Token. Both will impact the charts next week with new releases: Ghost with a covers EP (featuring takes on Genesis, Iron Maiden and Tina Turner) and Sleep Token with their first LP since going viral with advance track “The Summoning” earlier this year. Those built-in streaming numbers will boost Eden, while Phantomine is aided by multiple vinyl LP variants and (somewhat ironically) a Spotify-exclusive cassette.
Beyoncé, Renaissance (Parkwood/Columbia): Whether it can spark the kind of extended catalog-wide gains that Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour has in its first couple months remains to be seen, but the launch of Beyoncé’s Renaissance Tour has already given its titular album a nice bump on the Billboard 200, lifting it 49-34 on this week’s chart. It may rise even higher next week with the Friday release of her new “America Has a Problem” remix, featuring rap superstar Kendrick Lamar, which is off to a good start on streaming and whose metrics will be rolled in with the original Renaissance album cut.