Music

Next Week’s Hot 100: Megan Thee Stallion vs. Nicki Minaj vs… Ben Shapiro?  

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 Billboard Hot 100 dated Feb. 10), the year’s biggest new rap beef may power the next No. 1 debut, if a conservative pundit doesn’t elbow his way into the race. 

Megan Thee Stallion, “Hiss” (Hot Girl Productions) / Nicki Minaj, “Big Foot” (Young Money/Cash Money/Republic): Megan Thee Stallion set the rap and pop worlds ablaze on Friday with her incendiary “Hiss,” striking back against haters and foes who have plagued her drama-filled past few years. No specific names were mentioned, but certain bars were popularly interpreted to be directed at Nicki Minaj – who took the insult personally, firing back at her fellow MC over social media all weekend before dropping her own pointed response to Megan, “Big Foot.”  

With the battle between the two inevitably turning into a chart war, many will be looking to next week’s Hot 100 to ultimately crown a victor. It’s not a particularly fair fight, since “Hiss” has a three-day head start on “Big Foot,” having been released at the very start of the tracking week, rather than Sunday at midnight. Nonetheless, with both now out for multiple days, “Hiss” currently leads “Big Foot” by most real-time metrics – it’s atop both Spotify and Apple Music’s daily US streaming charts (“Foot” is right behind it on Apple but about 20 spots lower on Spotify) and claims both the No. 2 and No. 3 spots on the iTunes Top 100 with its multiple versions (“Foot” is No. 4, with both songs also now boasting multiple other variants throughout the top 25).  

Will it be enough to pass Jack Harlow’s “Lovin on Me” for the top spot on the Hot 100? It could be close: “Lovin” remains a strong performer in all chart factors, even still gaining in radio as it spends his second week atop the Radio Songs listing. But with “Hiss” given a jolt by all of the extra publicity over the weekend, it’s not only maintained its release momentum, it’s still been growing – and if it continues to do so over the final couple days of the tracking week, it could have a real shot at nabbing Megan both the first Hot 100 No. 1 debut as a lead artist and the first unaccompanied No. 1 of her career.  

Tom MacDonald feat. Ben Shapiro, “Facts” (Self-released): Yes, really: After right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro helped propel multiple songs to No. 1 this decade (including Megan’s own “WAP” back in 2020) with either his endorsement or his disavowal, he’s now in pursuit of a Hot 100-topper of his own. He even admits as much on “Facts,” his collab with “anti-woke” rapper Tom MacDonald, as he directs audiences during his own rap verse – again, yes, really — “All my people download this, let’s get a Billboard No. 1.”  

He’s likely to get a No. 1 on Billboard’s Digital Song Sales chart, anyway, as “Facts” has held the lead on iTunes essentially since its Jan. 26 release date, even amidst the Nicki/Megan beefing. The song’s streaming numbers are relatively small compared to “Hiss” and “Lovin on Me,” though, and it has no real radio support, so to even challenge for No. 1 it will still have to post a pretty stratospheric sales number in its debut week. Shapiro’s certainly banking on getting bragging rights over one of the week’s primary contenders, at least: “Nicki, take some notes, I just did this for fun,” he also taunts in his verse.  

Justin Timberlake, “Selfish” (RCA): In a less wild week, Justin Timberlake’s comeback single would likely be the most buzzed-about debut – though with Timberlake’s commercial fortunes declining fairly steadily over the past decade, “Selfish” was probably always something of a long shot for a No. 1 entrance.  

The love song, whose bow will also be hurt by its release coming last Thursday (meaning its first day of consumption totals will count towards the previous chart week), has nonetheless sold consistently and streamed somewhat steadily. It also has been embraced immediately on pop radio, with the song debuting at No. 33 on Pop Airplay this week after just a single day’s airplay. It might not be in the hunt for No. 1, but it could challenge the No. 25 debut of *NSYNC’s “Better Place” last year for the highest-charting JT-related song on the Hot 100 this decade.  

IN THE MIX 

Morgan Wallen, “Spin You Around (1/24)” (Honeyhole/Big Loud/Mercury/Republic): With Taylor Swift recently raising the commercial ceiling on re-recordings of decade-old songs, it’s hardly shocking to see Morgan Wallen’s acoustic re-do of this early-career ballad – successfully intended to overshadow his old label’s unsanctioned deluxe reissue of early-career debut EP Stand Alone – be received commercially like a brand new single. “Spin You Around (1/24)” may not have the longevity of Wallen’s One Thing at a Time hits, but the combination of curiosity streams and sales for a song many newer fans might not even be familiar with should get it a notable Hot 100 debut.  

Ice Spice, “Think U the Shit (Fart)” (Dolo Entertainment/10K/Capitol): Something of a “yes, really” in its own right, Ice Spice’s purposefully goofy latest single has divided the internet into those who find it to be frivolous, winking fun and those who think it’s just too silly for serious listening. The song might not be too long for the charts – the rapper just announced her imminent debut album, so she may be moving on fairly quickly herself – but initial interest in “Shit (Fart)” should be enough for a good Hot 100 debut, perhaps good enough to become her first unaccompanied top 40 hit.

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