Welcome to The Contenders, 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 April 1), Morgan Wallen’s One Thing at a Time juggernaut faces competition from a new U2 album of old U2 songs, as well as a rising star from the Latin world and a pop icon coming to a stadium near you.  

U2, Songs of Surrender (Island/Interscope). The members of U2 are no strangers to the top of the Billboard 200, having reached No. 1 eight times in their 43-year recording history, most recently in 2017 with the debut of Songs of Experience. Many of the songs from those albums can be found on Songs of Surrender — a collection of reinvented re-recordings spanning the band’s entire career.

Released on St. Patrick’s Day (March. 17), the collection is also available in 16-track standard, 20-track deluxe and 40-track super deluxe editions (with the later divided into four 10-track discs each named after a band member). Sales will also be helped by a dozen vinyl variants of the album, including exclusives for Target, Amazon and independent retailers — and even a Boston Celtics Limited Edition vinyl, with team-inspired packaging containing an exclusive poster.  

Eladio Carrión, 3men2 Kbrn (Rimas). An international swimmer turned social media influencer turned Latin trap hitmaker, Eladio Carrión has become one of this decade’s breakout stars from Rimas Entertainment, home to global superstar Bad Bunny. If his name isn’t yet familiar to you, some of the A-list features on his latest album 3men2 Kbrn will be – they include 50 Cent, Future, Lil Wayne, and of course El Conejo Malo himself, who appears on the set’s lead single “Coco Chanel.”  

Taylor Swift, Lover (Republic). As you may have heard, Taylor Swift recently launched her first U.S. tour in six years – and It’s not just the more than 100,000 fans in attendance at the first two dates in Glendale, Ariz. over the weekend who are psyched to see her, Swift’s sales and streams have spiked across her catalog, but the album poised to benefit most on the Billboard 200 is her 2019 set Lover. It’s appropriate, given how it’s the Swift album fans have waited the longest to see on tour, as she was forced to cancel immediate support plans during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.  


EST Gee, Mad (CMG/Interscope). Louisville rapper EST Gee has long seemed to be on the verge of a mainstream breakthrough, in the wake of high-profile early-decade guest appearances on Billboard Hot 100 hits like Lil Baby’s “Real as It Gets” and Jack Harlow’s “Backstage Passes.” He’s reached the Billboard 200’s top 10 three times already, most recently with official debut LP I Never Felt Nun in Sept. 2022, and looks to go for four with last Friday’s Mad mixtape – though outside of southern rap stalwart Boosie Badazz, the set is light on big-name guests.  

100 Gecs, 10,000 Gecs (Dog Show/Atlantic): The hyperpop paragons lean more into thick guitar riffs while maintaining their absurdist sense of humor on second album 10,000 Gecs, their first since making the jump to Atlantic. The critically acclaimed set — supported by their first Alternative Airplay-charting hit single, “Hollywood Baby” — is likely to give the duo its highest-charting entry yet on the Billboard 200, following the No. 92 peak of its debut album, appropriately titled 1,000 Gecs.

Andrew Unterberger
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