This sort of thing isn’t normally headline news, at least not the kind that we cover here at djrobblog. But there’s an interesting scenario playing out on the Billboard Hot 100 chart this week that draws on a recent hip-hop mini-beef – a largely one-sided one at that – involving Travis Scott, Nicki Minaj and her gal pal, pop singer Ariana Grande.
Those who pay attention to these things may recall the back-to-back album releases by Scott and Minaj in August. Scott’s Astroworld debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart dated August 18. A week later, Minaj’s Queen debuted at No. 2… behind Astroworld, which held its No. 1 spot with some impressive second-week numbers. The block-out by Travis prompted a very scornful Nicki to accuse Scott and his people of some shady chart manipulation, including beefing up his sales numbers by packaging the album with fan-friendly merchandise and getting an assist from his life partner and Kardashian clan member Kylie Jenner – the one with gazillions of Twitter followers – who tweeted her endorsement of the album and a related tour during its second sales week.
What people may also remember is that the Rap Barbie’s friend and sometimes collaborator Ariana Grande jumped into the fray when she issued her own slam of Scott after news broke that her album Sweetener was headed for a Number One début. Upon hearing the news, Ari joked “We have three days left, you don’t know what Travis could pull.”
Twitter, of course, lost it. And Nicki wasn’t finished with her attack.
On her radio show earlier that week, she let the punches fly, saying “What we’re not gonna do is have that Auto-Tune man selling fcking sweaters telling you he sold half a million albums, because he fcking didn’t. You stupid fck. You got your fcking homeboy talking for you and you got your girlfriend selling tour passes. Stop it. Knock it the f*ck off.”
But the irony here is that, while all three artists have had No. 1 albums (with Scott and Grande scoring chart-topping sets this year and Nicki last hitting the top in 2012), none of them had ever topped the Hot 100 singles chart. All three had stopped at No. 2 with various releases (Grande with “Problem,” Minaj with “Anaconda” and Scott on Kodak Black’s “Zeze” and his own “Sicko Mode”).
Well that changed a few weeks ago when Grande scored her first No. 1 single with her ode to various ex-boyfriends called “Thank U, Next.”
And right behind it?
Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode,” which is now in its fourth week at No. 2, stuck behind “Next.”
But after three weeks of Grande domination, the two songs are in a dead-heat for the race to No. 1 on next week’s chart. Grande’s “Next” suffered a 40% drop in chart points this week while maintaining a very slim lead over Scott’s “Sicko,” which according to Billboard had a slight increase in points. Their respective trends could result in Scott toppling Grande and getting his first No. 1 single on the next chart (dated December 8), which takes into account sales and streaming data for the tracking period that ends this Thursday night (Nov. 29) at midnight.
Scott’s ascension to No. 1 would seem like a foregone conclusion except for one wildcard. Grande has been teasing the upcoming release of an official music video for “Next,” which could spike streaming and sales numbers for the song and cause it to maintain its grip at the top. The video is planned for a release this Friday, Nov. 30, which would place it in Billboard’s next tracking week – thereby giving “Sicko” a chance to slide into No. 1 at least for one week before Grande’s video streaming points kick in.
But plans can change, and a surprise early video release from Grande could send Travis packing with his chances for a first No. 1 with “Sicko” down the drain. Plus, all the buzz about the “Next” video in the days leading to its release could also generate a point spike for Grande and cause “Sicko” to continue ailing at No. 2.
Either of those scenarios would be a shame because “Sicko Mode” is actually one of the best hip-hop singles of 2018 and, in this blogger’s view, a great way to cap off the year’s list of Number One hits.
But it might be sweet revenge for Minaj whose beef with Scott about Astroworld was one of the year’s most entertaining (and maybe its most legitimate).
So will it be “Thank U, Next” for a fourth week on top? Or will Travis Scott join Ariana in the Number One club with “Sicko Mode,” leaving Minaj alone to dwell in the close-but-no-cigar group.
We will know all the answers next Monday, December 3, when the new Billboard Hot 100 chart is revealed.
My bets are on “Sicko.” (Besides, how cool would it be to have the first No. 1 song with that word in its title… or “Mode,” for that matter?)