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Sweeter Than ‘Sour’? Looking at Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Guts’ Debut-Week Performance

In this week's The Contenders, Rodrigo's sophomore effort seems to be ticketed for the Billboard 200's top spot.   

The Contenders is 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 Sept. 23), the biggest new artist of the early decade returns with her second full-length album – but will it be a more or less impressive bow than her first? 

Olivia Rodrigo, Guts (Geffen): At a time in the music industry when new pop stars have become significantly harder to develop and damn near impossible to simply manufacture, Olivia Rodrigo has stood out as the instant-phenomenon exception to nearly every rule. She debuted atop the Billboard Hot 100 with her first official single, “Drivers License,” in early 2021, and only grew in momentum from there – also scoring another No. 1 with follow-up single “Good 4 U,” and a Billboard 200-topping debut album with the acclaimed (and eventually Grammy-winning) Sour


On Friday, Rodrigo returned with Guts, her much-anticipated sophomore LP. The album was already led by two Hot 100 top 10 hits, including her third No. 1 with the unpredictable ballad “Vampire,” and this week also sees a third single being pushed in the frisky “Get Him Back!” — which Rodrigo not only released an eye-catching music video for on Tuesday, but also delivered its live debut on the MTV Video Music Awards.  

The album has dominated streaming services since its Friday release, with six of its 12 tracks still in the top 10 on Spotify’s Daily Top Songs USA chart and four in the daily iTunes Top 10 five days later. It’s also expected to sell well, with 13 vinyl variants available – including exclusives for her official store, Amazon, Target, indies and Walmart, and two boxed sets with a vinyl LP and a piece of branded merch inside the box – as well as four CD variants, including an exclusive for Target, a signed CD sold at indie retailers and two boxed sets with a CD and branded merch inside the box. 

It should all be enough to make the album the week’s top Billboard 200 debut, and very likely the No. 1 album – but will it be able to top Sour, which posted 295,000 equivalent album units in its first week? So far, its streaming numbers are very comparable to Rodrigo’s debut, and have held strong throughout the week – though with only 12 tracks and no deluxe edition yet to speak of, the volume will invariably be lower than some more juiced-up tracklists of recent blockbusters from the likes of Morgan Wallen and Travis Scott. It may come down to her physical sales numbers, and how well those maintain day-to-day, to see if Guts has the internal fortitude to rise above her 2021 LP.  

V, Layover (Big Hit): The latest BTS alum to contend on the Billboard 200 is the baritone V, who on Friday unleashed his debut EP Layover. Like essentially all BTS-related releases, the set should sell in large physical numbers, thanks to a wide variety of variants and packaging options – including 13 collectible CD variants, all with randomized branded merch elements contained inside, and exclusive variants sold at Target, Walmart, Barnes & Noble and via the Weverse store. The six-track effort was preceded by lead single “Love Me Again,” which became V’s second solo entry on the Hot 100, debuting at No. 96.  

Tyler Childers, Rustin’ in the Rain (Hickman Holler/RCA): The timing is certainly right for a Tyler Childers album: Not only because he just scored his first Hot 100 hit with the No. 43-debuting “In Your Love,” but because the mainstream presence for his sort of rootsy country and Americana has been majorly expanded by the recent crossover success of Zach Bryan and Oliver Anthony Music. Childers is also offering four vinyl variants and three boxed sets (with LP and branded merch) of the new seven-track set — which includes “Love,” as well as covers of the Kris Kristoffersen-penned country staple “Help Me Make It Through the Night” and contemporary singer-songwriter S.G. Goodman’s “Space and Time.”  


Laufey, Bewitched (AWAL): Icelandic jazz-pop singer-songwriter Laufey, who appeared on her home country’s versions of both The Voice and America’s Got Talent as a teenager, scored a surprise TikTok hit earlier this year with the sweetly aching “From the Start,” which has racked up over 58 million on-demand U.S. streams since it came out in May. On Friday, she released her debut album, the 14-track Bewitched, which is for sale on CD, cassette and exclusive silver nugget vinyl on her webstore – as is the sheet music for the set, certainly something of a rarity for a 20-something artist in 2023.  

Olivia Rodrigo, Sour (Geffen): Don’t forget about Rodrigo’s debut, which has hardly become a stranger to the higher regions of the Billboard 200 since its May 2021 release. The album currently sits at No. 33 on the chart in its 120th week, and should be due for another sizeable jump in the week following its successor Guts’ debut: Billboard reported yesterday that Sour was up 21% in streams in the first four days of her sophomore album’s release.