Will ‘Houdini’ Have Eminem Magically Reappearing Atop the Hot 100?

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 Hot 100 dated June 15), a return to form a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rapper looks to interfere with some of the more explicitly 2024 hits vying for the top of the Hot 100.

Eminem, “Houdini” (Shady/Aftermath/Interscope): In April, Eminem began teasing the upcoming release of his 12th studio album, The Death of Slim Shady. Whether the album title foreshadows Em’s official retirement from music – a full 25 years after first announcing his name to the world in 1999 – or just a new phase in the rapper’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career, the album is sure to be one of the summer’s most anticipated. And now, it has an already-minted hit as the official lead single: “Houdini,” released on Friday (May 31).

More from Billboard

The new single, co-produced by Eminem with longtime Detroit-based collaborator Luis Resto, calls back to the MC’s 2002 megahit “Without Me” — with its “guess who’s back, back again” intro and its superhero-themed music video – and heavily interpolates both the instrumental backing and chorus hook from Steve Miller Band’s 1982 Hot 100-topping smash “Abracadabra.” The song also has gained a great deal of attention for its inflammatory lyrics, which see Em back to several of his old tricks – trying to bait critics with bars that at least verge on the homophobic, transphobic and misogynistic, as well as with one couplet making a bad pun about Megan Thee Stallion’s recent shooting at the hands of Tory Lanez.

Despite the controversy – or more likely, partly because of it — “Houdini” has gotten off to an excellent start in consumption. It debuted in the top five on both the daily charts on Spotify and Apple Music and is still hanging around there at mid-week with barely any drop-off, while remaining YouTube’s top-trending music video. Perhaps even more importantly for its chart fortunes, it has held all week at No. 1 on the iTunes sales chart, with Eminem having the advantage of having ruled in the era when digital song sales were still a more central part of the musical economy. He will need some pretty mighty numbers there to have a chance of scoring a No. 1 debut on the Hot 100 — which would make his first chart-topper since “The Monster” in 2013, and sixth overall — but when it comes one of the best-selling artists of the past quarter-century, you never want to proclaim their demise prematurely.

Post Malone feat. Morgan Wallen, “I Had Some Help” (Mercury/Republic/Big Loud): Three weeks after debuting at No. 1 on the Hot 100, the star team-up between Posty and Wallen shows no real signs of slowing down: It’s still holding in the top three on both the regular Spotify and Apple Music charts, and is just a couple spots below “Houdini” on the iTunes chart as well. But radio is where the song is really starting to create some distance from the competition: It has already moved into the top five on Billboard’s Radio Songs chart over four weeks – tying for the fastest rise to the region since Miley Cyrus’ four-quadrant smash “Flowers” last year — while surging on the country, mainstream pop and adult pop radio formats.

Radio is likely to make the difference for “Help” in the race for No. 1 next week, unless Eminem’s latest — which has earned 2 million in all-format radio airplay audience as of June 3, according to Luminate — grows there at a spectacular rate, while selling digital downloads like it’s 2010 all over again. (If “Help” holds at No. 1 for a fourth frame, it’ll be the first song to reign for that many weeks consecutively since Wallen’s own “Last Night” a year ago.)

IN THE MIX

Shaboozey, “A Bar Song (Tipsy)” (American Dogwood/EMPIRE/Magnolia Music): Shaboozey’s solo breakthrough smash has been hanging around the Hot 100’s top five for about a month now – and it might be due for something of a boost next week, with the release of the country singer-songwriter’s full Where I’ve Been, Isn’t Where I’m Going album. The song has also been finding its footing on radio, catapulting from 37 to 22 on Radio Songs in just its second week on the chart (dated June 8), and even finally catching on in Nashville, jumping 31-24 on Country Airplay as well.

Billie Eilish, “Birds of a Feather” (Darkroom/Interscope/ICLG): “Lunch” was tabbed as the focus track from Billie Eilish’s Hit Me Hard and Soft – along with a music video and an early radio push – and it also earned the album’s biggest Hot 100 debut, bowing at No. 5 and holding in the top 10 for a second week this week. But this love song may end up being the album’s biggest breakout hit, as the TikTok-approved “Birds” has passed “Lunch” on both the updating Spotify and Apple Music charts, and even on iTunes as well. “Lunch” will likely continue to have the radio advantage, but “Birds” (up 13-12 this week) may fly past it and into the top 10 on the Hot 100 in the next week or two.

Central Cee & Lil Baby, “BAND4BAND” (CC4L/Columbia): This Atlantic-crossing collab from London’s Central Cee and Atlanta’s Lil Baby debuted just outside the top 20 on the Hot 100 this week, and looks to only be gaining in its second week on streaming. Cee, one of the U.K.’s biggest breakout artists of the decade, has long been bubbling just under the mainstream in the U.S. — and now that he’s got a full-on crossover hit (with a proven American hitmaker as a co-star), there may be no ceiling for his stateside breakthrough.

Best of Billboard