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Will Twenty One Pilots Fly Above Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish on Next Week’s Billboard 200?

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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 June 8), a cult favorite act looks to get in the way of Billie Eilish’s latest and Taylor Swift’s unsinkable blockbuster. 

Twenty One Pilots, Clancy (Fueled by Ramen): For a couple years in the mid-‘10s, the duo of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun made the jump from regional Columbus, Ohio sensations to national hitmakers to legitimate A-listers, scoring a trio of Hot 100 top five hits and accepting Grammys in their underwear. Those days of massive crossover success are likely behind Twenty One Pilots at this point – their lone Billboard Hot 100 top 40 hit of the 2020s came at the beginning of the decade, with the COVID-themed “Level of Concern” – but the massive following the group accrued over those years has largely hung around, and should make them a contender for the top of the Billboard 200 this week for their latest LP Clancy.  

The new album (released two Fridays ago, May 17) follows 2021’s Scaled and Icy, which debuted at No. 3 with 75,000 equivalent album units. Clancy has the advantage of arriving as the much-hyped final installment in their conceptual series dating back to 2015’s breakthrough set Blurryface, loosely telling the story of the titular Clancy in the dystopian city of Dema. The set should have modest streaming success – helped by the visual album aspect of the release, with videos filmed for each of its 14 tracks – but will likely do most of its damage in physical sales. To that end, the duo has released Clancy in 11 different-colored vinyl variants, as well as in signed and unsigned zine/CD journal packages and digipak CDs, and a couple deluxe CD box sets with branded merch included inside. On May 29, the group also released a limited-time Clancy – Digital Remains deluxe edition – only available until midnight on May 30 — which features four recently recorded live bonus tracks, as well as a lengthy exclusive digital booklet offering behind-the-scenes photos.  

Even with impressive sales and solid streams, Clancy will still be fighting an uphill battle trying to get to No. 1 next week, with the two sets that sparred for No. 1 last week – Taylor Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department and Billie Eilish’s Hit Me Hard and Soft – still posting massive numbers on streaming. With both of those artists essentially emptying the bench last week of their remaining deluxe editions and CD variants on sale for their respective new albums, however, Clancy could have a real advantage in sales. But the album will have to post a much better first-week units figure than Scaled and Icy’s 75,000 – likely at least in the low six figures – to really have a chance of passing either.  


RM, Right Place, Wrong Person (Big Hit/Geffen): The BTS alum’s follow-up to 2022’s No. 3-peaking Billboard 200 hit debut album Indigo is even looser, more expansive and more sonically diverse than that impressive first effort. That means that RM still hasn’t scored a solo hit single or global streaming mega-smash like his bandmates Jimin and Jung Kook – who both topped the Hot 100 in 2023 – but it means he’s cultivating an albums audience, which will have the option of purchasing Right Place, Wrong Person in 13 different CD variants, all containing branded paper merch and other collectibles.  

Wallows, Model (Atlantic): Like Twenty One Pilots, Wallows are no longer at the peak of their crossover moment – which was much more modest than that duo’s to begin with – but retain an extremely loyal following, one which should help their third album Model become one of the week’s top debuts. The set is available in a dozen different-colored vinyl variants – with three signed editions available on their website, one signed by each member – as well as a couple cassette and CD editions, while the group spent this week doing in-store promotional appearances at indie retailers.  

Sexyy Red, In Sexyy We Trust (Rebel/gamma.): Sexyy Red was one of 2023’s biggest breakout stars, with her acclaimed Hood Hottest Princess mixtape and breakout hits “Pound Town” and “SkeeYee,” which she’s already one-upped this year with the No. 20-peaking Hot 100 hit “Get It Sexyy.” That song can be found on her new mixtape In Sexyy We Trust, as well as a new teamup with her “Rich Baby Daddy” collaborator Drake, “U My Everything,” which samples the “BBL Drizzy” beat that producer Metro Boomin had been using to mock Drake as part of the latter’s ongoing feud with Kendrick Lamar. That song has gotten off to a slower-than-expected start on some DSPs – perhaps as exhaustion with the larger feud finally starts to set in – but the set should still fare well on streaming, with the album currently only available digitally. 

Andrew Unterberger
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