oja Cat, Scarlet (Kemosabe/RCA): In the rankings of the biggest pop stars right now without a No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 to their credit, Doja Cat may very well be atop the list. Her last album, 2021’s Planet Her, debuted at No. 2 on the chart (behind Tyler, the Creator’s Call Me if You Get Lost) but ultimately notched a stunning five singles into the Billboard Hot 100’s top 20 – an ‘80s- or ‘90s-style blockbuster, one that impacted the pop world for well over a calendar year. She didn’t get a Hot 100 No. 1 off that album, but she’s also got two of those for her career: most recently “Paint the Town Red,” the Dionne Warwick-sampling advance track from new set Scarlet, released last Friday (Sept. 22).
Huge pop track record, excellent-performing last album, smash hit lead single: Seems like it should be a recipe for an automatic No. 1 debut this time around, right? Well, maybe, but not definitely: While Doja has always performed well on a single-for-single basis, she’s never had the kind of whole-album-bomb streaming numbers that many artists on her commercial level tend to post in 2023 – trends that seem to be continuing with Scarlet, as most of the album’s tracks have already fallen off the big DSPs’ daily charts. And she doesn’t usually sell tremendous numbers in physical formats, with Scarlet not even being available yet in vinyl: just the standard album for sale on digital and CD, as well as a deluxe edition with two bonus cuts.
So even as “Paint” continues to dominate on streaming and radio, Doja may have her work cut out for her climbing past a pair of prior No. 1s on the chart: Rod Wave’s Nostalgia and Olivia Rodrigo’s Guts, which hold the top two spots on this week’s Billboard 200 (dated Sept. 30) and are still littering the streaming charts with essentially their entire tracklists. One thing that might give her a valuable late-week boost: “Agora Hills,” released as the new single along with the whole set, has already caught on TikTok (and YouTube, with its eye-popping music video), and seems likely to be ready to supplant “Paint” in the Hot 100’s top tier once that single starts to slow down – if not earlier.
Zach Bryan, Boys of Faith (Belting Bronco/Warner): Speaking of prior No. 1s on the Billboard 200 – the artist who reigned just before Wave and Rodrigo also is contending for the top spot again this week. Zach Bryan has followed up his best-selling self-titled album (which topped the Billboard 200 for two weeks in September) with the surprise-released new five-songs EP Boys of Faith, featuring guest appearances from fellow acclaimed alt-folk singer-songwriters Noah Kahan and Bon Iver. With no physical release and only a handful of tracks, Faith isn’t likely to put up Zach Bryan numbers – but given Bryan’s streaming prowess lately, and with Kahan collab “Sarah’s Place” off to a particularly dynamite start on DSPs, you can bet it’ll be heard from in the 200’s top tier next week.
Lil Tecca, Tec (Galactic/Republic): New York rapper Lil Tecca hasn’t scored a major Hot 100 hit since his irresistible breakthrough smash “Ran$om” went all the way to the chart’s top five in 2019, but he’s continued to perform well on the Billboard 200, with both of his two 2020s studio albums (2020’s Virgo World and 2021’s We Love You Tecca 2) debuting at No. 10 on the chart. That might be about where third album Tec shows up, as the 16-track set is off to a strong start on streaming, with advance single “500lbs” looking on pace to potentially become his biggest hit since “Ran$om.” The set is also for sale on CD and digital, and in four deluxe boxed sets sold through Tecca’s webstore, each with a branded T-shirt and a copy of the CD.
IN THE MIX
Kylie Minogue, Tension (Darenote/BMG): Lead single “Padam Padam” gave Kylie Minogue her biggest pop culture moment in at least a decade when it became a cult favorite this spring and summer, and the pop legend is looking to capitalize on that momentum this week with the release of 16th studio album Tension. Physical sales would be the key to her first top 20 entry on the 200 since 2010’s Aphrodite, as Tension is available in six CD variants, five vinyl variants, four cassette tapes and three digital album iterations (including an artist webstore deluxe with five bonus tracks).
Staind, Confessions of the Fallen (BMG): It’s been awhile for nu-metal veterans Staind, who we last got a full album from back in 2011, with their self-titled effort. In the years since then, frontman Aaron Lewis has become better known for his pivot to country, even scoring a top 20 Hot 100 hit with the conservative screed “Am I the Only One?” Still, Confessions lead single “Lowest in Me” proved they were still welcome on rock radio, becoming their fifth Mainstream Rock Airplay No. 1 this August – and you’d have to go back to their 1999 sophomore effort Dysfunction for their last album that failed to reach the top five of the Billboard 200.