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 August 5), the hottest new K-pop breakout of 2023 takes on the hottest new film soundtrack of 2023 for Billboard 200 supremacy.
NewJeans, New Jeans’ 2nd EP (‘Get Up’) (ADOR/Geffen/Interscope): After breaking through earlier this year with the singles “OMG” and “Ditto,” Korean girl group NewJeans established itself as one of the most exciting new acts in global pop with a massive online following. The quintet looks to build on that rising success with a new EP released Friday (July 21) that’s officially titled New Jeans’ 2nd EP (’Get Up’) and features Powerpuff Girls-esque cover art representing the five members.
As is often the case with major K-pop releases, the set is expected to sell very well, thanks largely to the wide variety of variants available for release. There are three main CD versions of the album, but with 14 total iterations, with different covers and packaging individualized to the different members, and all with a set of branded merchandise inside, including photo books, lyric books and photo cards.
However, NewJeans are exceptional among most 2023 K-pop acts in that they also stream very well in the U.S. On the most recent Spotify Daily Top Songs USA chart, every track from the new EP is still on the top 200 ranking, led by the Billboard Hot 100 hit “Super Shy” (No. 64 for the chart dated July 29). Given that it’s an EP with only six tracks total, that puts it at something of a disadvantage on the Billboard 200. But its combination of sales and streams should still make for a formidable debut on next week’s charts.
Various Artists, Barbie the Album (Atlantic): Hey, did you know there’s a new Barbie movie out? Most likely after years of promo and a $155 million opening weekend, you’ve heard tell of the pop culture phenomenon – which also includes a star-studded soundtrack, executive produced by Mark Ronson and featuring new songs by A-listers like Billie Eilish, Karol G, Sam Smith, Lizzo, Nicki Minaj & Ice Spice, and even film star Ryan Gosling, among many more.
Barbie the Album is in stores now via a half-dozen vinyl LPs (including retailer exclusives), three cassette editions and multiple CD iterations — as well as in a deluxe Best Weekend Ever Edition, which features a Gosling cover of Matchbox Twenty’s “Push” and married couple Brandi and Catherine Carlile’s version of Indigo Girls’ “Closer to Fine.” (Both originals are featured in the film, but not on the soundtrack.) The set has also been steadily growing on streaming since its Friday release – led by Minaj’s and Ice Spice’s “Barbie World,” featuring original “Barbie Girl” hitmakers Aqua, and Eilish’s “What Was I Made For?” — as Barbie-mania continues to seep into the few remaining untouched corners of national consciousness.
IN THE MIX
Greta Van Fleet, Starcatcher (Republic): Classic rock revivalists Greta Van Fleet have gone top 10 with both of their first two albums, 2018’s Anthem of the Peaceful Army and 2021’s The Battle at Garden’s Gate, and look to make it three in a row next week with their new Starcatcher. The album is available in five different vinyl variants, and features the lead single “Meet the Master,” a top five hit on Billboard’s Hot Hard Rock Songs chart.
Ice Spice, Like..? EP (10k Projects/Capitol/Dolo): For many older listeners, the phrase “deluxe EP” may feel slightly oxymoronic, but that’s what always-rising rap star Ice Spice released on Friday, with the expanded version of her breakthrough Like..? EP. The six-track January set — which was expanded to seven with the April addition of the Nicki Minaj-co-starring remix to “Princess Diana” — is now at a whopping 11 tracks, including the new “Deli,” which has made a strong debut on streaming.
Nas, Magic 2 (Mass Appeal): The latest in a late-career explosion of productivity for legendary MC Nas – recently ranked as Billboard’s third-greatest rapper of all time – Magic 2 marks the sequel to his 2021 set, and his fifth album in three years. The 11-track album only includes two guests, but both big-name: fellow Queens native 50 Cent on “Office Hours” and Atlanta star 21 Savage on the previously released bonus cut “One Mic, One Gun.”