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Did ‘1989 (Taylor’s Version)’ Cap Off the Most Dominant Month of Taylor Swift’s Career?

today11/07/2023

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The Year of Taylor just keeps rolling: on this week’s Billboard chart, Taylor Swift reigns with the biggest sales week of her career, as well as a new Hot 100 chart-topper replacing a different Swift song at No. 1. 1989 (Taylor’s Version), the fourth release in the superstar’s six-album re-recording project, earned 1.653 million equivalent album units in its debut week, scoring Swift her 13th No. 1 on the Billboard 200; that’s the biggest equivalent album units total for an album since Adele’s 25 in 2015, and also marks Swift’s largest sales week (1.359 million) to date.

Meanwhile, “Is It Over Now? (Taylor’s Version),” one of five “From the Vault” tracks from the album, debuts at No. 1 on this week’s Hot 100 chart, giving Swift her 11th career chart-topper. And “Is It Over Now?” replaces her 10th Hot 100 No. 1, “Cruel Summer,” at the top, after the Lover fan favorite spent two weeks at the peak of the chart.

Which of Swift’s latest chart feats is more impressive? And have we just experienced the biggest month of her career? Billboard staffers discuss these questions and more below.

1. With 1.653 million equivalent album units, 1989 (Taylor’s Version) gives Taylor Swift the largest week for any album, by units earned, since 2015, and easily becomes the biggest debut week for a Taylor’s Version album thus far. What do you think is the biggest reason for the monster debut? 
 
Danielle Pascual: If I had to pinpoint the moment Taylor solidified her place as a pop superstar, it would be after she dropped the original 1989 in 2014. During this album cycle, she racked up three Hot 100 No. 1s (“Shake It Off,” “Blank Space,” “Bad Blood”), spent 11 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, embarked on her massive first stadium tour and scored multiple Grammys, including album of the year. This was the era she started most interacting with fans — on social media (especially Tumblr), hosting listening parties for fans in her home pre-album release (the ‘Secret Sessions’), and even sending Christmas gifts to especially active fans (‘Swiftmas’). She also made headlines for a number of other reasons during this time — whether related to her open letter to Apple Music (in which she removed the album from the platform to advocate for artist rights) or her always-speculated dating life. The press cycle for the original project began nearly a decade ago, but it remains the album the general public is most familiar with, while still being regarded as a favorite for Swifties and critics alike.

Hannah Dailey: I think that 1989 was always an album for the people, not just Swifties; in fact, it converted a lot of people into Swift fans back in the day. It’s still her most chart- and radio-friendly album, full of hits that still wouldn’t feel out of place on the radio today (“Blank Space,” “Wildest Dreams,” “Shake it Off”). Plus, the recovered “Vault” song lore (allegedly) about her most high-profile relationship to date (ahem, Mr. Styles) doesn’t hurt, either.

Jason Lipshutz: When 1989 (Taylor’s Version) was announced in August, I outlined the monumental success of the original 1989, with key numbers that explained why the album stands out as a commercial and critical high in a career full of them. That era’s enormity is the main reason why this Taylor’s Version bow dwarfs the others’ debut weeks, its sugary pop exterior and chart-topping hits just too undeniable for longtime fans and casual listeners. Despite coming at a very busy time in the extended Swift universe, the arrival of 1989 (Taylor’s Version) was always going to be too big to fail.

Katie Atkinson: The combination of Taylor’s most commercially successful album, combined with the groundswell of support around her Taylor’s Version re-recording mission, was bound to yield extraordinary results. Basically, the first half of Swift’s career was all leading up to the blockbuster success of 1989, and the second half of her career has all been leading up to her largest-ever sales week. It feels implausible that an artist as huge as Taylor still has higher heights to hit, 17 years in.

Kyle Denis: Obviously, a debut of this size is the result of many compounding reasonings, but I think the majority of the credit should be attributed to Swift’s momentum right now. Despite fairly sparse social media activity and a rest period for her Eras Tour, her new romance with Travis Kelce has made her a virtually inescapable media presence across sports, film and music. That kind of visibility, combined with her already having the No. 1 song in the country, probably helped push 1989 (Taylor’s Version) to its massive debut. I was always certain that 1989 (TV) would debut with over one million units, but I think it’s Swift’s overall career momentum that helped that number inch past Midnights’ 1.57 million debut. 

2. While Swift scores the single-largest sales week for any of her albums (not just her Taylor’s Version albums!), “Is It Over Now?,” a “From the Vault” song from 1989 (Taylor’s Version), replace another Swift song, “Cruel Summer,” atop the Hot 100 chart. Which of the two accomplishments is more impressive to you? 

Danielle Pascual: Both stats are widely impressive, but scoring the single-largest sales week for any of her albums is huge. Taylor didn’t really change up her physical format strategy for her latest Taylor’s Version — since Folklore, she’s released the album with multiple variations on vinyl and CD (including signed copies), as well as a cassette. Plus, when 1989 debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 2014, it scored the single-largest sales week for an album since 2002. The fact that the Taylor’s Version replaced the original album from that top spot speaks to the power of her re-recording journey and fans’ desire for more.

Hannah Dailey: They’re both major, but I’d say her album sales record takes the cake. She’s always been remarkable because of her continued success with LPs, even during periods when public/generational appreciation for the album art form was on the decline. The fact that she’s still outdoing herself in that category is incredible.

Jason Lipshutz: While Swift scoring her largest career sales week at this point in an already storied career is a gargantuan feat, the fact that she was able to replace a song of hers from 2019, with a “From the Vault” song originally conceived for her 2014 album, at the top of the Hot 100 in the year 2023, feels even more mind-boggling as an achievement. Most artists need to release brand new songs to top the charts — not Swift, who has become so dominant in popular music that her songs can travel through time to No. 1.

Katie Atkinson: Ooh, they’re both crazy. But I’m going with the sales week because she’s already replaced herself atop the Hot 100 previously – when “Blank Space” unseated “Shake It Off” back in 2015 from, you guessed it, 1989. In fact, she’s still the only woman to ever replace herself at No. 1 on the chart. Getting these album sales numbers in 2023, let alone her highest-ever album in a career of highs, is next-level.

Kyle Denis: Definitely the album sales accomplishments. Considering that the original 1989 has already sold millions of copies – and keeping in mind the decline in overall albums sales activity over the past decade – the fact that Swift was able to snag this record in a career that already boasts five albums with opening weeks of over 1 million units is simply astounding. She’s technically already sent a “From the Vault” song to No. 1, so while congratulations are certainly in order, it’s not the most remarkable achievement of the past week for Swift.  

3. Do you think “Is it Over Now?” is in for an extended run as a new Swift hit, or do you think another “From the Vault” track has a better shot at ubiquity? 

Danielle Pascual: At this point, I think “Is It Over Now?” will continue as the standout. There is plenty of chatter surrounding the song online — it even has a TikTok dance that grows more viral everyday. It’s the type of upbeat pop song we’d expect (and want) from the album that marked Taylor’s departure from country and true foray into pop.

Hannah Dailey: If any of the “Vault” tracks has a shot, it’s “Now That We Don’t Talk.” It’s a classic Swift earworm with relatable lyrics (minus the “mega yacht” part), and a lot of traction on TikTok.

Jason Lipshutz: “Say Don’t Go” is my personal favorite of the 1989 (Taylor’s Version) “From the Vault” songs, but the more I listen to “Is It Over Now?,” the more I appreciate its sonic nuance, lyrical detail (particularly the “three hundred takeout coffees later!,” which plays on my head in a loop) and the emotional rush of the physical movements involved in the chorus. “Is It Over Now?” Is both catchy and understated in a way that sounds durable at radio, and considering how well it’s already doing on streaming platforms, the song appears to be in for a long run at or near the top of the Hot 100.
 
Katie Atkinson: I agree with our own Jason Lipshutz (oh hi, Jason!) that “Say Don’t Go” is the “From the Vault” winner on 1989 (Taylor’s Version). I don’t know that another “Vault” track could top the chart, but I could see it having the longest shelf life of the new batch of songs. I think more than anything, I’ll be curious to see which “From the Vault” tracks Taylor might pull out at her upcoming Eras Tour stops for the acoustic set. I definitely hope to see “Say Don’t Go” performed live.

Kyle Denis: I don’t see “Is It Over Now?” having much longevity at the top of the Hot 100, nor do I think any of the other “From the Vault” tracks will experience that fate. As commercially successful as the Taylor’s Version endeavor continues to be, just one “From the Vault” track has made any kind of lasting commercial impact beyond its first week of availability – and that was 10-minute update of a decade-old fan favorite and cult classic (“All Too Well (10 Minute/Taylor’s Version)”). 

4. Within the span of one month, Swift’s Eras Tour concert film bowed big at the box office, “Cruel Summer” finally reached the top of the Hot 100 and 1989 (Taylor’s Version) scored the biggest sales week of her career (while also producing another Hot 100 chart-topper). Have we just witnessed the most dominant 30 days of Swift’s entire career? 
 
Danielle Pascual: Yes — and I think that will turn into the most dominant 60 days of her career. Just this week, for instance, Taylor returns for her blockbuster Eras tour after a three-month break, and she’s a front-runner for 2024 Grammy nominations with Midnights (set to be announced on Friday). Plus, Swifties believe a reputation (Taylor’s Version) announcement is imminent by year’s end, which will likely make a slew of new records of its own. What Barbra Walters once said seems to be true now more than ever: “Taylor Swift is the music industry.”

Hannah Dailey: So far? I’d say yes. But knowing her, I’d be hesitant to say that this is the most dominant she’ll ever be, only because she always seems to find a way to top herself. I’m curious whether this will light a fire under her to replicate the success she’s seeing now from her older material with new music down the line.

Jason Lipshutz: Yes. Throughout her career, Swift has enjoyed periods of multiple hits from the same project competing for space near the top of the Hot 100, huge album debuts, major awards and sold-out stadium runs — but this month feels singular, as if her presence in popular music is the same as popular music itself. She’s firing on all cylinders, across multiple mediums and eras, and has zero peers on her level. It’s an unparalleled run, and breathtaking to witness.

Katie Atkinson: Man, I thought that was back in July when Taylor was in the thick of her headline-dominating Eras Tour and had just released Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), only to have three songs from three different albums in the Hot 100 top 10 — “I Can See You (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)” (Speak Now, No. 5), “Cruel Summer” (Lover, No. 9) and the “Karma” remix featuring Ice Spice (Midnights, No. 10) — and of course the re-recorded 2010 album at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. But yeah, somehow, this surpasses even that.

Kyle Denis: Yes. As I said earlier, her current momentum is almost unparalleled. 

5. Now that 1989 (Taylor’s Version) has been out for over a week, has your opinion changed on any of the hits (or existing album cuts) from the album? 

Danielle Pascual: I don’t think so! As a lifelong Swiftie who saw Taylor live for the first time during the 1989 tour, my favorite songs off the original album are still my favorite songs today: “New Romantics,” “Clean” and “Out of the Woods.” I still think “Shake It Off” gets more hate than it deserves, and “Bad Blood” is her worst single off the album (though I recognize how important it was for her career). I do think this slew of “From the Vault” songs is my favorite out of all her Taylor’s Version re-recordings so far, and am excited to see how they’ll fare over time.

Hannah Dailey: This is the only Taylor’s Version so far to make me wish that the “Vault” songs had made it onto the actual track list, even if it were at the expense of songs on the original listing. I would’ve rather had “Say Don’t Go” over “All You Had to Do Was Stay,” “Now That We Don’t Talk” over “I Wish You Would” and “Is It Over Now?” over “How You Get The Girl” – as much as I love every one of those songs. I think this new light shed on her track list choices serves as further proof that her primary focus with 1989 was to make a super-polished pop album that maybe wasn’t quite as vulnerable as her past work, but more palatable to a wider audience. Granted, this approach obviously worked out well for her career at the time, with 1989 spending 11 weeks atop the Billboard 200, and securing a second album of the year Grammy win.

Jason Lipshutz: “Blank Space” remains the most perfect single from that album, but “Wildest Dreams” has turned into a personal favorite, maybe more than any of the 1989 hits. The sweep of the hook! The urgency of the final chorus! I appreciate it all a little bit more now than I did nine years ago.

Katie Atkinson: The hits? No! 1989 is still perfect. And this might be my favorite batch of “From the Vault” tracks of any Taylor’s Version album so far, just because most of them would feel at home on her new albums, too.

Kyle Denis: Still a massive fan of 1989, but having sat with the re-recording for over a week, I don’t think 1989 (Taylor’s Version) does justice to the original. Nonetheless, I do really enjoy “Slut!”

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