(October 23, 2022). Midnights is out and breaking records left and right.
Taylor Swift’s latest opus is shattering streaming and sales records after just a few days of availability and is projected to move up to 1.2 million units and debut at No. 1 on next week’s Billboard 200 album chart (dated November 5).
It’ll be the first album this decade and the first since Taylor’s own Reputation in 2017 to move a million-plus units in a single week.
In doing so, it will become Swift’s eleventh No. 1 album, placing her in a four-way tie with Drake, Barbra Streisand and Bruce Springsteen for third-most all-time behind only The Beatles and Jay-Z, who have 19 and 14 respectively.
There was a time in history when it was believed by almost everyone that the Beatles’ record would remain intact forever. Until Jay-Z’s millennial charge with a slew of No. 1 albums during the 2000s and early ‘10s, no one was even close to threatening the Fab Four’s mind-blowing total.
Then Jay’s album output slowed down considerably, with Hov’ only releasing one solo chart-topper in the past nine years (he had seven No. 1 albums in the prior nine-year window).
At his current pace, it now appears less likely that Mr. Carter will threaten the Beatles’ total this decade. Few expect that the billionaire rapper, who turns 53 in December, will release five or six more albums during his career, much less during the remaining seven years of the 2020s.
Taylor Swift, on the other hand, is only turning 33 in December and is riding a hot streak that has seen her top the album chart six times since Jay last did it.
Jigga’s last solo album, 4:44, hit No. 1 in July 2017.
Since then, Taylor has topped the list with Reputation, Lover, Folklore, Evermore, Fearless (Taylor’s Version), and Red (Taylor’s Version).
Midnights will make seven.
While that streak is already impressive—and represents more No. 1 albums than any else in that time span—it’s the prospect of what lies ahead for Taylor that really positions her well to surpass not only Jay-Z, but the Beatles as well, and likely before the end of the current decade when she turns 40.
First, there’s the issue of Taylor’s re-recorded albums.
She’s vowed to re-record and release all of her first six albums following the highly contentious securing of those original recordings’ ownership rights by her nemesis Scooter Braun.
Braun has since sold those rights to a third party, but that hasn’t stopped Taylor from seeking redemption. She has already re-recorded and released two of them, Fearless (TV) and Red (TV), both of which topped the Billboard 200.
Because these albums are new recordings (and on new labels), they are tracked independently from the originals and count separately towards Taylor’s No. 1 total.
Assuming that Swift will make good on her promise to re-release the remaining four albums—Taylor Swift (TV), Speak Now (TV), 1989 (TV), and Reputation (TV)—and that they will follow in their two predecessors’ footsteps, that would give Swift fifteen No. 1 albums, moving her ahead of the recently dormant Jay-Z.
This means that all she would need to do between now and December 2029 is record four more proper albums and have them reach No. 1—not a far-fetched proposition for someone who’s released five new chart-topping studio LPs in just the past five years alone.
Swift certainly has more than enough incentive to follow through on this.
First, it’s probably no surprise that Taylor is an observer of history and knows her place in it. Whenever she breaks streaming and chart records she promptly acknowledges her feats on social media, thanking her fans for their undying support. She likely is very well aware of where she ranks on the all-time list and how far she needs to go to get to the top of it.
Secondly, with a lucrative, artist-friendly recording contract under her belt (through Republic Records) in which she reportedly receives a royalty rate of at least 50 percent and has ownership of both her masters and her publishing rights going forward, there’s no reason to believe that she would slow down her output anytime soon.
But third and most importantly is the fuel that seems to drive Taylor the most.
It’s the notion that, for the entirety of the modern music business, and certainly during the history of the Billboard album charts, men have been dominating the narratives. During the rock era, first Elvis and then The Beatles and later Michael Jackson have been the standard bearers against whom most others’ accomplishments were compared.
As the rock era has given way to hip-hop, people like Jay-Z, Drake, Eminem and Kanye West have been piling up No. 1 albums like they’re stacks of dollar bills, with only time separating those men from eventually giving the Beatles a run for their money.
While that still may be a realistic possibility for Drake, who’s releasing new albums at least annually and has had four No. 1s since Jay-Z’s last one, it seems less likely for Eminem and Ye, whose output has slowed significantly over the years. (Drake announced Sunday, Oct. 23, that he will be releasing a new album on Friday 10/28 with 21 Savage, setting up a huge battle for the top during Midnights’ second week of release.)
In the meantime, Taylor has emerged from a male-dominated field to take ownership of both her music and her fate, and in doing so has paved the way for other artists—male and female—to do so as well.
Thus it would be a fitting accomplishment for her to overtake the Fab Four who, before her, were widely acknowledged as the group who did more to influence music than anyone else.
Will Taylor ever take the albums crown?
Come back in about seven years—or sooner—to get the answer.
Chart historian DJRob (he/him/his) is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.
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