Music

How Big a First Week Will Beyoncé Lasso With ‘Cowboy Carter’? 

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 200 dated April 13), it’s pretty much all Cowboy Carter, as Beyoncé’s eighth official studio LP sets its six-shooter’s sights on the top of the charts.  

Beyoncé, Cowboy Carter (Parkwood/Columbia): Even in a first quarter that’s seen full-length releases from some pretty massive artists — including Kanye West & Ty Dolla $ign, Ariana Grande and Future & Metro Boomin — Beyoncé albums remain a next-level event in the pop sphere. Cowboy Carter rode onto the scene last Friday (March 29) with more buzz and anticipation than any other LP of 2024 thus far, and the results have not disappointed: The album currently boasts a 92 score on review-aggregating website Metacritic, making it the second-best-reviewed set from any artist this year, and has also started receiving some serious Grammy buzz as the set to finally earn her long-overdue first album of the year trophy.  

Unsurprisingly, the release is expected to make an eye-popping debut — helped by a number of physical versions of Cowboy Carter that Beyoncé is currently selling exclusively via her webstore. (Vinyl and CD are scheduled to go wide to all retail on April 12, which should give it a nice sales bump in its third chart week.) The set’s vinyl release includes four different-colored variants, each with a different back cover image of Beyoncé. The CD version includes an extra song, “Flamenco,” and is available in four variants (each also with a different Beyoncé back cover), while two of the CDs are exclusively available inside the boxed sets she’s selling — three versions of which are currently for sale, each with a T-shirt and a copy of the album on CD inside a branded box. And of course, there is a digital version for sale and streaming, which includes five tracks not featured on the physical release (“Flamenco,” “Spaghettii,” “The Linda Martell Show,” “Ya Ya” and “Oh Louisiana”). 

All of this should add up to a lofty sales total for Beyoncé, who has become a reliable performer in terms of physical sales, moving 190,000 such copies of Cowboy Carter’s 2022 predecessor Renaissance in its U.S. debut frame, according to Luminate. The new album is also streaming very well — at 27 tracks, it’s the longest album of Bey’s career to date, which will certainly help boost those totals — and Spotify even confirmed that it was the service’s most-streamed album in a single day of 2024 so far upon its release last Friday. That said, outside of previously-released lead single (and former Billboard Hot 100 No. 1) “Texas Hold ‘Em,” the album has no breakout hit yet on streaming akin to Grande’s “We Can’t Be Friends” or Future and Metro Boomin’s “Like That” — as of Tuesday (April 2), the only new song from the set in Spotify’s Daily US Top Songs chart was the Miley Cyrus duet “II Most Wanted,” at No. 10. (Both “II Most Wanted” and Bey’s redo of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” were top 10 on Apple Music, at Nos. 10 and 8, respectively.)  

Nonetheless, the high-volume combination of sales and streams should still result in a massive first week for Cowboy Carter — likely setting a new high-water mark for 2024 by passing Future and Metro Boomin’s We Don’t Trust You, which entered with 251,000 units on this week’s chart. It may also be in line to pass the 332,000 units Renaissance moved in its debut frame two years ago, becoming Beyoncé’s best-debuting album since her universally-beloved Lemonade bowed with 653,000 units back in 2016.  

IN THE MIX 

J-Hope, Hope on the Street, Vol. 1 (BigHit Music/Geffen/ICLG): J-Hope‘s latest is the musical accompaniment to his new Amazon Prime docuseries of the same name, in which the BTS alum hits the streets to meet dancers around the world and reconnect with his dancing roots. The six-track set features guest appearances from his bandmate Jung Kook as well as club legend Nile Rodgers, and is available in eight collectible CD editions, including exclusives for Target, Walmart and the Weverse store, all boasting branded paper merchandise (like posters, photo cards and stickers).  

mgk & Trippie Redd, Genre : Sadboy (10K Projects/EST 19XX/Interscope/ICLG): The artist formerly known as Machine Gun Kelly’s first full-length release since officially rebranding as mgk is a 10-track team-up with longtime collaborator Trippie Redd. The resulting set is closer to the former’s hip-hop roots than his last few pop-punk-oriented albums, one of which (2020’s Tickets to My Downfall) debuted atop the Billboard 200. Genre : Sadboy is not yet available for vinyl purchase, but can be bought on CD via mgk’s official website.  

Aaron Lewis, The Hill (Valory/BMLG): Longtime Staind frontman Aaron Lewis has found success in the country world since making a career pivot over a decade ago, particularly with conservative-courting right-wing anthems like 2021’s surprise top 20 Hot 100 hit “Am I the Only One.” His latest country-leaning effort The Hill is a 10-track acoustic affair, and is available on both CD and clear vinyl.  

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