By Gary Graff
She did it again––and there’s no oops about it. With Red, her fourth album, Taylor Swift notched her third consecutive No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200, selling more than 1.2 million copies––the best since The Eminem Show in 2002––and setting a variety of landmarks: the only female artist to ever sell more than a million first-week albums with two consecutive releases; the highest ever iTunes first-week sales (565,545 copies); the top one-week sales ever by a country artist; and the best single-week sales for Target.
Swift also racked up sales by releasing four tracks, one each week, via iTunes before Red’s release, with each reaching No. 1 in short order. It adds to a tally that includes more than 22 million albums sold worldwide and more than 51 million digital downloads in the US, but the 22-year-old Swift hastens to point out there’s some artistic ch-ching going on here, too. Unlike 2010’s Speak Now, for which Swift wrote everything herself, the distinctively pop-focused Red finds her collaboration with the hit-making likes of Jeff Bhasker, Butch Walker, Max Martin, Shellback and Dan Wilson, as well as previous pal Dann Huff. She also duets with Ed Sheeran on “Everything Has Changed” and Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody on “The Last Time.”
Red is an album whose ambitions are as big as its sales, and Swift––who again filled the set with songs drawn directly from her personal life––is counting on fans to know the material from to back when she returns to the road March 13 for the first North American leg of a planned world tour.
Music Connection: Your album had a huge debut. A great iTunes countdown roll-out of the songs. It’s not foreign for you to come out of the gate this strong, of course. Do you get used to it, or have to fight getting used to it?
Taylor Swift: I never get used to that. I don’t naturally feel like I am entitled to win. I don’t naturally feel like if I put out a song it will go to number one in hours. It’s like I got so used to having to fight to get the song up the charts and having to wait and having to hope that people would hear it, that’s kind of where my mind stayed. And so when we have something like this album, where all the songs that we put out on the iTunes countdown have gone to number one, it is absolutely mind-blowing to me that the fans are that reactive and that they’re that fast and that there are that many of them who are so clued-in. It’s something that I’m never going to get used to. I can’t imagine getting used to it.
MC: The iTunes countdown for the new songs was an interesting way to roll things out. What was it like to watch it happen?
Swift: It’s so exciting to reveal, track by track, songs that are so different from each other and kind of keep people on their toes about what could possibly be coming next.