Five Burning Questions: Brent Faiyaz’s ‘Wasteland’ Debuts at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 (2023)

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This year has seen plenty of splashy album debuts by previously minted superstars, but few of the kind of first-week bows from up-and-coming artists that catch you a little off-guard and really make you take notice. This week, we have one of those bows on the Billboard 200 albums chart, courtesy of rising R&B singer-songwriter Brent Faiyaz.

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Faiyaz’s second studio albumWasteland debuts at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, behind Bad Bunny’sUn Verano Sin Ti in its fifth week at No. 1 — while also landing nine of its tracks on the Billboard Hot 100, led by “All Mine” at No. 42. It’s a major breakthrough for the independent singer-songwriter, whose previous high on the Billboard 200 was No. 20 (with 2020’sF–k the WorldEP) and who’s never had a major hit on the Hot 100 as a lead artist.

Why is Faiyaz having such a big week? And which R&B not-quite-star might be next to reach his level?Billboard staffers discuss these questions and more below.

1. Few outside of Brent Faiyaz’s own camp likely projected a debut this big forWasteland — 88,000 equivalent album units moved, No. 2 only behind Bad Bunny’s monster Un Verano Sin Ti. On a scale of 1-10, how surprised are you by the scale of his bow?

Cydney Lee: 5. I knew Brent dropping was a big deal, but him debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 was kind of a shock. I expected him to chart but not so high. Not because I didn’t think he could, but because I wasn’t sure how much his fanbase was going to hold him down in that regard. Brent toes the mainstream-underground line. And him doing all of this while still being independent is impressive.

Elias Leight:7 or 8? Anything over 50,000 equivalent album units would be impressive for an indie act without a viral single. Faiyaz soared by that mark, and Wastelandalso coasted past recent albums from major pop stars whose music was all over the radio and Today’s Top Hits at the time of release, handily out-performing the last Miley Cyrus album, the last Dua Lipa album, the chart-topping third installment of Kid Laroi’s F*ck Love, and most likely Lizzo’s just-releasedSpecial. For several years, Lauv was considered the poster child for independent success thanks to the global reach of his single “I Like Me Better,” but the album containing that track debuted outside of the Top 40 on the Billboard 200. Faiyaz’s commercial achievement is impressive.

Jason Lipshutz: A 6. A No. 2 debut with a nearly six-figure bow is definitely startling considering Faiyaz’s lack of chart history — at least as an albums artist — but recent collaborations with Drake and Tyler, the Creator suggested that the Maryland crooner had industry buy-in and a high commercial ceiling. I would have expected a top 10 bow upon Faiyaz’s return with a new project, but buzz around Wastelandhas been strong, and since it was unveiled during a relatively quiet release week, he can now toast an impressive No. 2 start.

Neena Rouhani: I’d say I’m right in the middle, so a 5. Half of me was like “yeah, right” to speculation that he’d go No. 1 and the other half was like “but people really love Brent Faiyaz,” myself included. Brent is really a bright light in every sense within the R&B sphere. His persona is easy to love, his music is true to the genre while remaining unique and futuristic, he is a man of the people, investing in his community and really uplifting Black women through his artistry and philanthropy, so it’s no surprise that people want to see him win. It’s also been five years since his last studio album, Sonder Son, which helps when it comes to buzz (he also released two super-solid EPs). And mind you, all of this as an independent artist? It’s pretty awe-inspiring.

Andrew Unterberger: Maybe a 7. A top 5 debut in a weaker week would not have been humongously surprising to me, but to get to No. 2 with a first-week number that would’ve easily secured him the top spot in about half the chart weeks of 2022 so far is a real head-turner. Then again, the fact that he got to No. 20 with just an EP a couple years ago — and has probably only grown his fanbase in the years since — should’ve probably been a clue that big things were coming with this album.

2. Does the album’s immediate success say more to you about Wasteland and how it’s been received so far, or about the following that Faiyaz has stealthily amassed over the past half-decade?

Cydney Lee: Definitely both. Brent’s following almost certainly has been growing from year to year, but something about his voice, his lyrics and subject matter, and his production is just different. All that paired with his cool, calm and collected, mysterious, bad boy energy and sex appeal adds to the anticipation every time he teases something or drops. He’s honest and feels pretty unapologetic about it too — which is also admirable, if you ask me.

I also want to say that Idothink the “toxic” label is a bit unfair and old, though. I guess people can’t come to terms with the fact that he is transparent about his sexcapades, and because he puts that on display with no remorse and because it doesn’t align with how they view love and relationships, “toxic” becomes the default word. Give it up, people.

Elias Leight:Definitely the latter. I’m not sure reception has that much impact on first-week numbers. Jazmine Sullivan’s Heaux Tales, for example, was widely acclaimed, and it had an eventual radio hit in the great “Pick Up Your Feelings,” but it still earned less than half Faiyaz’s first week total. Even acts enjoying viral moments haven’t been able to matchWasteland‘s numbers — Giveon had “Heartbreak Anniversary” leaping into the Top 40 when he put outWhen It’s All Said and Done…Take Time; that release earned 32,000 units in its debut frame.

Jason Lipshutz: It’s a combination of both: Faiyaz has developed a loyal fan base ever since “Crew” with GoldLink and Shy Glizzy started taking off in 2016, and he was primed for a breakthrough project, especially one with a strategically timed release. However, Wasteland really does make good on his promise, showcasing his sensual vocals, complex personal issues and some well-timed guest spots. The world was ready for a Brent Faiyaz project that felt like an event, and he delivered.

Neena Rouhani: I think it has more to do with his fanbase. Don’t get me wrong — the album is a beautiful example of true storytelling through a body of work amidst a lot of playlist albums. But there isn’t a “standout track” that you can say brought in enough new listeners to explain Wasteland‘s numbers.

Andrew Unterberger: It’s more the latter, but it’s also that Faiyaz had made it clear that this project was going to be something worth consuming in full — the consistency of his output, the intentionality of his pre-release rollout, and the clear structuring of the set with interludes and skits tying it together all projected it as a true album. That still means something in 2022 — a lot, even — as we’ve seen with similarly recent R&B LP successes from Summer Walker and Jazmine Sullivan.

3. Do you see a breakout hit coming from any of the tracks on Wasteland? (And do you think having a breakout hit is important in establishing Faiyaz in the mainstream, or is that a near-antiquated notion at this point?)

Cydney Lee: This is tricky because obviously “Gravity” with Tyler, the Creator and DJ Dahi is one, but I feel like that doesn’t count because it was released last year. Same with 2020’s “Dead Man Walking.”

When it comes to thenew tracks on the album, I would say “All Mine” seems to be a fan-favorite. But honestly, I don’t think there will be a “breakout hit” amongst the album’s new tracks and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Wastelandseems to have something for everyone. Just from reading tweets about the album in the days after its release, they’ve all been about different songs. It’s pretty fire if you think about it. In a mainstream sense (and not considering the aforementioned singles), “All Mine” might be toWastelandwhat “Gang Over Luv” is toSonder Son, but that’s debatable.

Elias Leight: The closest thing Faiyaz has to a traditional mainstream hit is singing the hook on GoldLink’s “Crew,” which came out way back at the end of 2016 — and while that nearly topped Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart and earned a Grammy nomination, it didn’t even crack the Top 40 on the Hot 100. In that sense, Faiyaz already seems to have proved that a mainstream hit is not a necessary precursor for a big album.

Will he have a hit anyway? “All Mine” enjoyed the highest debut on the strength of first-week streams, just missing the Hot 100’s top 40. Radio might help push the track further into the mainstream, and there’s precedent for independent acts having success on the airwaves recently — see Muni Long’s “Hrs and Hrs” — though radio campaigns are expensive. That said, “All Mine” has gotten over 200 spins so far this week, led by stations in Washington D.C., Atlanta, and Philadelphia. Wasteland‘s clear standout for me is “Jackie Brown” — with its striking production, airy opening, and subtle nod to Ginuwine — but that one has yet to chart.

Jason Lipshutz: Wasteland doesn’t have any surefire crossover hits, but a few really great songs that could take off based on their high quality and the general interest in Faiyaz right now. The gorgeous, lilting “Loose Change” sounds ready for some R&B radio play, and I could see parts of “Angel” being used in TikTok clips that tug on the heartstrings. Faiyaz doesn’t need a crossover single right now to continue on his upward trajectory… but having one wouldn’t hurt, and would likely speed up his ascent.

Neena Rouhani: I see two songs — ”All Mine” and “Loose Change” — bringing in a lot of streams, but I’m not sure if it’ll amount to a breakout hit. I personally love “Price of Fame,” which was one of the album’s pre-release singles, but we’ll see. In terms of the importance of the breakout hit, I think it depends on what Brent wants. I think he already has a cult following and if he remains steady where he’s at, he’ll continue to be successful. Now, if he wants to be a household name, then he most definitely needs a massive single. But that’s not necessarily what everyone wants anymore (imagine that), because artists have more routes and options, especially indie artists.

Andrew Unterberger: “All Mine” definitely has a shot; it’s the one that felt the most like a single to me on my first couple listens and it’s already off to the best start on the Hot 100. I hope it gets a fair shot; he deserves to be a radio mainstay, R&B radio could certainly use a bankable new male star, and Faiyaz’s voice has that kind of striking quality to it where you wouldn’t be surprised or upset to hear it showing up on the hooks to a half-dozen different radio hits at once.

4. What lesson, if any, can other R&B artists — or maybe other independent artists in any genre — take from Wasteland‘s first-week success?

Cydney Lee: My advice is to make music that is true to you and don’t cater to anyone but yourself. I’ve been reading and watching interviews with Brent since the album’s release, and one answer that’s been consistent across each conversation is that he just makes music that is honest and feels good to him. It seems like most rising or independent artists who reach major chart, streaming or even TikTok success do so by accident — as in, they didn’t make the song with intentions of it becoming a hit or going viral. I think artists who stay true to themselves and their artistry before, during and post-major success moments are the ones who will continue to succeed because their true, core fans will continue to rock with them, and end up being the ones to drive that artist to the charts or wherever. I genuinely feel like that’s what happened with Brent.

Elias Leight:In some ways this album seems like a unicorn, so it’s hard to imagine what lessons can be taken from it. One thing to note: Many artists talk a big game about independence early on, but then change their minds and decide to partner with a major-label or prominent distributor — either because they want a big check or they feel like they can’t scale the heights of the album chart without one. Faiyaz proves that it’s possible to stay the course and still achieve that level of commercial impact.

Jason Lipshutz: “Stay patient.” The success of Wasteland has been a long time coming for Faiyaz, who was only able to score a gaudy debut with a project featuring multiple A-listers after nearly a decade of hard work — grinding out small wins year after year in order to prepare for this big one. His narrative could be seen as an outlier in the era of TikTok-fueled ephemeral hits, but Faiyaz is a testament to those artists who keep pushing forward, even if success doesn’t come immediately.

Neena Rouhani: This may seem miniscule or obvious, but keep an extremely solid creative team around you. The guys that Brent has worked with on music – Nascent, Dpat, Loshendrix, Paperboy Fabe, among others – have been in the picture since day one. On Wasteland, Brent definitely branched out to other producers, but those OG collaborators really helped him cultivate a unique sound that remains today. This is always important across the board, but especially for indie artists, due to a lack of label resources combined with an oversaturated artist market.

Andrew Unterberger: Focus on your albums! Make sure they move like albums, that they feel like more than just a collection of streaming singles, that they’re not so intent on landing collabs for the sake of higher consumption that the guest list ends up distracting from the final product. Not every R&B artist with a great album is gonna do 88,000 first week, of course — or anywhere close to it — but it’s still a more reliable way to capitalize on career momentum than viral hits and trending topics.

5. What other left-of-center R&B (or R&B-adjacent) artist are you looking at to potentially make a similar splash to Brent Faiyaz here with their next full-length project?

Cydney Lee: Steve Lacy just dropped his sophomore albumGemini Rights, and I’m hoping we see him on the Billboard 200 next week too. He’s already scored his first solo Hot 100 song with “Bad Habit” which was the album’s second single and he seems to have a similar cult-like following like Brent. Both are having their moments and I love to see it.

Elias Leight:Again, I’m not sure that anyone right now has enough of a low-key-but-fervent following to match Faiyaz’s chart heroics. But there are obviously plenty of other great artists making interesting music. “Sunshine” was a languorous highlight of Steve Lacy’s just released Gemini Rights album, with gorgeous, gauzy harmonies courtesy of Foushée. The Space Ghost and Teddy Bryant collaboration “Heaven Sent,” released in April, is a silky and sneakily addictive throwback. And Leven Kali’s “Let It Rain,” also from April, was funky and driving, offering an up-tempo energy that was mostly missing onWasteland.

Jason Lipshutz: Tems has had a hand in a pair of enormous hits over the past few years — Wizkid’s “Essence,” and Future’s “Wait For U,” also featuring Drake — and last September’s If Orange Was a Place EP will hopefully set up a proper album sooner than later. Whenever we receive a full-length statement from Tems, a lot of people will be paying attention.

Neena Rouhani: Steve Lacy just released Gemini Rights last week and Omar Apollo released Ivory in April. I have really high hopes for their futures, and I love the way alt-R&B has been looking over the last few years — there are a lot of gems. I am super curious to see what happens with Daniel Caesar’s next album, too. His last single, “Please Do Not Lean” was pretty R&B, but I have a feeling the project may be more experimental.

Andrew Unterberger: Steve Lacy, Lucky Daye and Foushée all feel like very strong answers to this — and let’s not forget about Kali Uchis, who has still yet to release a new album since having her first true crossover moment with “Telepatía” last year.

FAQs

How many copies did Wasteland sell? ›

Of Wasteland's starting total, 81,000 units come from streaming-equivalent album units, equal to 107.5 million official on-demand streams of the album's songs. 6,000 units are through album sales, and the remaining balance through track-equivalent albums.

How much did Brent Faiyaz sell? ›

According to Billboard, the record earned a total of 88,000 equivalent album units in its first week, including 81,000 in streaming equivalent album units (107.48 million on-demand streams of the tracks), 6,000 in album sales and the rest in track equivalent album units.

When did Brent Faiyaz Wasteland drop? ›

Wasteland is the second studio album by American R&B singer Brent Faiyaz. It was released on July 8, 2022, by Lost Kids, Venice Music and Stem Disintermedia. It was executive produced by Jonathan "Freeze" Wells.

Is Steve Lacy on Brent Faiyaz new album? ›

Announcing his third full-length project with a gripping black-and-white teaser on June 13, Faiyaz has finally revealed the Wasteland he's resided in these last few years — bringing along Drake, Tyler, The Creator, Joony, The Neptunes, Steve Lacy and more for the ride.

How much did Chris Brown sell first week? ›

Chris Brown debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 154,000 copies in its first week. This became Brown's first US top-ten debut.

How much did Drake album sell? ›

With 170 million records sold worldwide, he is among the best-selling music artists in history. Drake has achieved eleven number-one albums on the Billboard 200 and 11 number-one hits on the Billboard Hot 100.
...
Drake discography
Mixtapes7
Compilation albums3
Promotional singles5
5 more rows

How much did honestly Nevermind sell first week? ›

Commercial performance. Honestly, Nevermind debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 with 204,000 album-equivalent units, including 11,000 pure album sales. Its tracks earned a total of 250.23 million on-demand streams. The album is Drake's eleventh number-one album in the US.

How much did breezy sell first week? ›

Commercial performance. In the United States, Breezy debuted at number four on the US Billboard 200 with 72,000 album-equivalent units, which included 5,000 pure album sales in its first week, making it his 11th top-ten album album in the country.

How much did Gemini rights sell first week? ›

1 debut on Top Rock & Alternative Albums. In the week ending July 21, the set, released July 15, earned 34,000 equivalent album units in the U.S., according to Luminate, with nearly the entirety of its sum via streaming equivalent units.

When did Brent drop price of fame? ›

In addition to the video, he's also announced that his project will release on July 8 via his Lost Kids label.

How do you pronounce Brent Faiyaz? ›

How to Pronounce Brent Faiyaz? (CORRECTLY) - YouTube

Who is featured on Wasteland? ›

Featuring guest appearances from Tyler, the Creator, Drake, the Neptunes, Joony, Alicia Keys, and Tre' Amani, Wasteland is an expansive effort that sees Faiyaz at his most confident. Atop nocturnal, sparse production, he flaunts his smooth vocals and penchant for effortless hooks.

What song is Steve Lacy on Brent album? ›

Gravity

Who is featured on Brent's new album? ›

The 19-track LP includes the previously shared tracks “Dead Man Walking,” “Gravity” featuring Tyler, the Creator, “Wasting Time” featuring Drake and The Neptunes, and “Price of Fame.” The album includes additional features from Tre' Amani, Joony and Alicia Keys.

Who is going to be on Brent Faiyaz new album? ›

It features Drake, Alicia Keys, Tyler, the Creator and more.

Executive produced by Jonathan “Freeze” Wells, the 19-track album will consist of four of the songs Faiyaz previously released, dating back to 2020's “Dead Man Walking.” It went certified gold in June 2021.

What is Chris Brown highest selling album? ›

The best-selling album by CHRIS BROWN is EXCLUSIVE, which sold over 4,540,000 copies .

How many #1 Does Chris Brown have? ›

Chris has garnered six No. 1 singles (two on the Hot 100; four on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs), 13 top 10 hits on the Hot 100 and 37 top 10 singles on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

How much did Lil Durk sell first week? ›

7220 – first week album sales.

Did wasteland 3 sell well? ›

inXile Entertainment's Wasteland 3 has just hit a big milestone. After releasing exactly two months ago, Wasteland 3 has continued to grow and now has reached 1 million players. Wasteland 3 reviewed very well when it launched, which has helped propel the franchise to a successful player count.

Who made wasteland 1? ›

Wasteland

What genre is wasteland Brent faiyaz? ›

What is Wasteland Wiki? ›

Wasteland or waste land may refer to: Desert or barren area. an uncultivated area of land, whether wooded or not, whether common land or not.

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