At the start of 2020, Taylor Swift’s itinerary for the near future looked simple enough.
She planned to tour that summer to support her latest No. 1 album, “Lover.” And although Swift had said she would be rerecording her old albums after the sale of her former record company, she gave no indication of when. So there was little reason to expect any imminent new music from Swift, who had long stuck to a regimen of one studio album every few years.
But 2020 and 2021 have seen a remarkable flurry of recording activity from Swift, and record-breaking chart success. Last year came two quarantine albums, “Folklore” and “Evermore,” and this year she has been focused on her rerecordings — meticulous re-creations of her earlier work, casting the act as empowering business move, retribution against the investors that now control some of her original recordings, and an opportunity to revisit youthful themes with a more mature eye.
“Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” came in April, and now “Red (Taylor’s Version)” has become Swift’s fourth No. 1 album in 16 months, which Billboard says is the fastest run in the 65-year history of its album chart. Since “Folklore” came out in July 2020, Swift has held the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s album chart a total of 15 times.
“Red (Taylor’s Version)” had the equivalent of 605,000 sales in the United States in its first week, according to MRC Data, Billboard’s tracking arm. That total includes 303 million streams and 369,000 copies sold as a complete package. It sold 114,000 copies on vinyl LP — which Swift released as a $50 set of four discs at 45 r.p.m. — which is the most that any album has sold on vinyl since at least 1991, when SoundScan, MRC’s predecessor, began reporting reliable data on record sales.
Among the highlights of the new “Red” is a 10-minute version of her song “All Too Well,” with added lyrics that give more depth to the story of a failed romance. Swift made a short film of this long version, performed it on “Saturday Night Live” and released two additional recordings of it last week.
The Cultural Impact of Taylor Swift’s Music
The pandemic has been a time of renewal and reinvention for Taylor Swift. After releasing two quarantine albums, the singer is in the process of releasing the rerecordings of her first six albums.
The new “All Too Well” also becomes Swift’s eighth No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart, with multiple new recordings of the song — but not its 2012 original — counting toward its total of 54 million streams, in addition to downloads and radio plays.
Swift now has 10 LPs that have gone to No. 1, tying her with Elvis Presley, Eminem, Drake and Kanye West. The Beatles still rule that list with 19 chart-topping titles, followed by Jay-Z with 14 and Bruce Springsteen and Barbra Streisand with 11 each.
The 605,000 sales of Swift’s new “Red” is the second-biggest opening for any album this year, after 613,000 for Drake’s “Certified Lover Boy” in September. But both are expected to be dwarfed by the arrival of Adele’s “30” on next week’s chart, a ready-made blockbuster that may reach or even exceed one million sales in its opening week, something that no album has done since Swift’s “Reputation” four years ago.
Little official data has been released about the initial success of “30,” which came out on Friday. But as a sign of Adele’s clout in the music industry, she announced over the weekend that, apparently at the singer’s request, Spotify had removed “shuffle” as the default playback mode for albums, making it easier for fans to hear an album from beginning to end, as the artist intended.
“Thank you Spotify for listening,” Adele tweeted on Saturday, and the service responded: “Anything for you.”
Also on this week’s chart, Silk Sonic, the retro-soul project of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, opens at No. 2 with “An Evening With Silk Sonic,” which had the equivalent of 104,000 sales, and the K-pop girl group Twice is at No. 3 with its new “Formula of Love: O+T=<3.” Summer Walker’s “Still Over It,” last week’s top album, falls to No. 4, and “Certified Lover Boy” is in fifth place.