Music

Will It Be Taylor Swift vs. Bestie Gracie Abrams for No. 1 on the Billboard 200 Next Week?

The Contenders is a midweek column that looks at artists aiming for the top of the Billboard charts, and the strategies behind their efforts. Next week (for the upcoming Billboard 200 dated July 6), a good friend and acolyte of Taylor Swift’s gets within striking distance of her Tortured Poets Department reign.  

Gracie Abrams, The Secret of Us (Interscope): The latest artist to seemingly make the jump in 2024 from cult stardom to pop stardom appears to be singer-songwriter Gracie Abrams. After reaching No. 52 on the Billboard 200 albums chart with long-anticipated 2023 debut LP Good Riddance and scoring a best new artist nomination at this year’s Grammys, Abrams made her unaccompanied solo bow on the Billboard Hot 100 (No. 49) a couple weeks ago with her long-teased “Close to You” single. Now, she’s set to contend for the week’s top debut on the Billboard 200 with sophomore set The Secret of Us.  

With “Close to You” still performing well on DSPs – ranking in the top 100 on both Spotify’s and Apple Music’s daily charts — Secret is expected to secure a solid streaming debut. But its performance on next week’s Billboard 200, and its ability to give Taylor Swift’s current nine-week No. 1 The Tortured Poets Department a run for its money, will largely be dictated by its sales numbers. To that end, Abrams has released seven vinyl variants of the set, all in different-colored vinyl – two of which were signed and exclusive to her webstore, and one of which was exclusive to Target, with an alternative cover. (She’s also released the set on CD, and discounted its digital release to $5 on her webstore.)  

The particularly coincidental part of Abrams’ breakout LP getting in the mix with Swift’s blockbuster is that not only is Abrams a tour opener for (and good friend of) the dominant pop superstar, but Swift herself actually features on the album – the two singer-songwriters co-penned Secret’s “Us,” with Swift also providing vocals on the track. Unsurprisingly, “Us” is also leading the way for the set on streaming services – though it is still being outpaced across the board on DSPs by Poets cuts like “Fortnight” and “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart.”  

Taylor Swift, The Tortured Poets Department (Republic): Meanwhile, Swift’s blockbuster is still pulling six-digit units on a weekly basis — most recently earning 126,000 units for its ninth week at No. 1, according to Luminate. That’s a remarkable total for an album about to reach double digits in weeks of availability, and while the set is slowing down on DSPs – only two tracks from it remain on the 50-position Streaming Songs chart this week – it remains a consistent seller.  

And Swift has cards still left to play there. She had two further CD variants up for pre-order on her store a few weeks ago that could impact this week or an upcoming week – and they are due to ship before early July. They each contain the standard 16 song tracklist, plus one bonus acoustic track (one has an acoustic version of “Fresh Out the Slammer” and one an acoustic version of “Fortnight”). If this week’s (or a future week’s) race ends up being a close one, the shipping of those sets could ultimately end up making the difference.  

Peso Pluma, Éxodo (Double P Records): One of the biggest breakout starts of 2023 – and our pop star rookie of the yearPeso Pluma is back with his sophomore album, the double-disc set Éxodo. The first disc mostly features Peso’s signature corridos tumbados sound with returning collaborators like Eslabon Armado, Gabito Ballisteros and Natanael Cano, while the second disc has heavier trap and EDM influences and new collaborators like Cardi B, Quavo and Anitta. The set has no physical release at the moment, so the overwhelming majority of its performance will have to be streaming-based – which should certainly be aided by its 24-track length – but without a major breakout hit yet to speak of, Éxodo might be fighting an uphill battle matching Poets or Secret this week.  

IN THE MIX 

Ariana Grande, Eternal Sunshine (Republic): Don’t forget about Swift’s labelmate, whose Eternal Sunshine set was the early pacesetter among 2024 blockbusters. The album is likely to spike on the Billboard 200 this week, thanks in part to the recent extra promotion for new single “The Boy Is Mine” — including a new music video co-starring TV star Penn Badgley and a remix featuring Grande’s “The Boy Is Mine” dual predecessors Brandy and Monica – and also due to a limited-release signed CD, available through her webstore, which shipped out during the tracking week for this upcoming week’s 200.  

Kehlani, Crash (Atlantic): After returning to the Hot 100 for the first time in a couple years with lead single “After Hours,” Kehlani has unveiled her full new Crash set. The album is a little light on big-name features – Jill Scott, Young Miko and Omah Lay are the only credited guests – but it is available for purchase in seven vinyl variants and three CDs (including a deluxe package with a signed poster), and is attracting mostly strong reviews thus far.  

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