This week on Scoreboard U2 has the #1 album in the U.S. and Grammy previews continue with SZA
Billboard Artist Top 10
For the magazine dated December 23, 2017
See the full chart at http://www.billboard.com/charts/artist-100
|Billboard Artist Top 10||Name||Billboard 200 Album Rank||Billboard Hot 100 Singles||Highest Charting Single|
|2||Ed Sheeran||4||3||1: Perfect (Remix)|
|3||Chris Stapleton||2||1||90: Broken Halos|
|4||Taylor Swift||3||3||39: End Game|
|6||Post Malone||11||4||2: Rockstar|
|7||Imagine Dragons||15||2||5: Thunder|
|8||Demi Lovato||6||3||16: Sorry Not Sorry|
|9||Sam Smith||7||1||6: Too Good For Goodbyes|
|10||Beyoncé||–||1||1: Perfect (Remix)|
With the holidays just around the corner, it’s beginning to look like Christmas on the charts with Pentatonix back in the Billboard Artist Top 10 and the group’s holiday albums at #5 and #12 on the Billboard 200. However, non-holiday music dominates the top of the Scoreboard this week. On the Hot 100, the eight-week run at #1 by Post Malone‘s “Rockstar” (ft. 21 Savage) has been stopped by the star power of Ed Sheeran and Beyoncé on “Perfect (Remix),” which was featured as a likely #1 on last week’s Scoreboard. The chart-topper is Sheeran’s second Hot 100 #1 and Beyoncé’s sixth (or tenth if Destiny’s Child #1s are included).
There is also a change on top of the Billboard 200 and the Artist 100. Taylor Swift drops from #1 after three weeks on top of both charts. She is replaced by veteran Irish rockers U2. U2’s new album Songs Of Experience becomes the band’s eighth #1 on the Billboard 200 and avoids the controversy of 2014’s Songs Of Innocence, which was pushed onto Apple devices, infuriating some owners who did not consent to receive it and failing to make #1 because Billboard kept it off the charts until the physical version of the album was released.
Two-time Grammy winner Chris Stapleton takes #2 on the Billboard 200 this week with From A Room: Volume 2
Experience Pays Off For U2
U2’s longevity is impressive. The band is nearly 40 years old and continues to stay relevant, appearing on Saturday Night Live and attracting top producers such as OneRepublic‘s Ryan Tedder. Earlier this year the band appeared on Kendrick Lamar‘s “XXX,” becoming the only rock act featured on Lamar’s DAMN. The flip side of “XXX” is U2’s “American Soul,” which is included on Songs Of Experience. It is a strange case of a song being sampled before its official release. It is also U2’s most politically-charged song on the new album: towards its finish Bono sings “let it be unity / let it be community / for refugees like you and me.” U2 may be Irish, but Bono and his family have been residents of New York City since the early 1990’s and the U.S. remains the biggest concert market for U2.
The rest of Songs Of Experience is less political and more personal. For fans of long titles you can find “Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way,” “Love Is All We Have Left,” and “You’re The Best Thing About Me” on the new album. The titles give the songs’ content away and strangely link U2 to the bliss of Shania Twain‘s recent album. But the bliss on Songs Of Experience is limited. During the making of the album, Bono suffered through a serious bicycle accident in New York’s Central Park and had another unspecified “near-death experience” at the end of 2016. Having survived both of those incidents, Bono pairs up with Haim on “Lights Of Home,” a contemplation that starts with the lyrics “shouldn’t be here ’cause I should be dead.” Fortunately Bono is still kicking and ready to commence the U2 Experience + Innocence world tour in May 2018.
U2’s Songs Of Experience are also available in a deluxe vinyl edition
Grammys Preview: SZA
When it comes to Grammy previews, Scoreboard has so far been on a kick with Best New Artist nominees, already featuring Khalid and Alessia Cara. This week’s featured Best New Artist candidate is the oldest of the group, SZA, who is 27 and whose moniker is pronounced “sizzuh.” Besides being nominated for Best New Artist, SZA is also nominated for Best R&B Performance, Best R&B Song, Best Rap/Sung Performance, and Best Urban Contemporary Album. That album is SZA’s debut Ctrl, which started at #3 this summer, the same week Katy Perry took #1 with Witness. Now that we’re in December, SZA has the Grammy nominations (Perry has none) and Ctrl is at #31 on the Billboard 200 (Witness is off the chart entirely). In addition to the Grammy nominations, Ctrl was also just named Time‘s album of the year, a hip choice for a magazine that caters to older demographics.
So what makes @sza such a compelling case for best new artist? To start, she is not an overnight sensation like Khalid and Cara, who both broke through as teenagers. She grew up in the affluent New Jersey suburbs that also gave the world Lauryn Hill, but had to face the reality of being one of the few African-American and Muslim students in school. SZA never finished college, though she attended three universities, and only got into making music at age 22, developing her sound on the mixtape circuit before making the Hot 100 for the first time this July with “Love Galore” ft. Travis Scott. That first hit (that may become the Best Rap/Sung Performance of 2017) followed a trap-R&B blueprint with lyrics about a struggling romance. SZA’s second charted hit “The Weekend” (#38 on the Hot 100 this week; the song may become Best R&B Song of 2017) takes on the topic of being the other woman and updates the Erykah Badu neo-soul sound for the 2010’s. Yet @sza is not just an R&B specialist, she considers Jamiroquai among her influences and she demonstrated her ability as a pop force on Maroon 5‘s top 10 hit “What Lovers Do.” If versatility is the name of the game, SZA is a winner, and question becomes not if she will win Grammys, but how many will she take home on January 28th, 2018.
SZA hangs out with fellow Best New Artist nominees Khalid and Julia Michaels on a Billboard cover in October 2017