It's Her

Has it really been a year and a half since the last new Taylor Swift album? Well yes and no, because of course although 2022's Midnights (home of long-running No.1 single Anti-Hero) was indeed her last studio album of new music, the waters have been muddied by the subsequent release of the "Taylor's Version" re-recordings of both Speak Now and 1989 during the course of last year. The presence on those special editions of previously unheard "from the vault" tracks means she has essentially been releasing new songs ever since. So you can be forgiven for feeling this is all a bit relentless.

But still, here we are with a whole brand new totally unheard Taylor Swift album to contemplate. Heralded since the start of the year with her usual brand of easter-egg laden social media posts, The Tortured Poets Department arrived this week with the usual flurry of multiple formats - each with their own unique extra track - plus the surprise announcement that the album you had just bought in its 16th track single disc edition was in fact a double album with 15 more songs added almost at the last minute.

Look, I listened to it, as did the whole of the rest of the planet it appears (of which more in a moment). But my word it is all heavy going. Because as is also Taylor's way the record is full of songs about her, the whole record documenting what she acknowledges was a period of personal meltdown around 2022 when she broke up with long term boyfriend Joe Alwyn and had a brief situationship with 1975 frontman Matty Healy. Whatever pain she was going through at the time is nothing compared to the pain she is now inflicting on us - Swifties and civilians alike. The album is 31 tracks of multi-voiced "oh my boyfriend doesn't like me any more I'm so inadequate but also very pretty and famous" songs. At times it is like being battered in the face with a cupboard full of teenage diaries. Except of course these are the musings of a 30 year old woman who may well be the biggest star of her era, justifiably the biggest star on the planet right now but whose reliance on a series of rubbish men for her own self esteem is both startling and also you suspect the very reason why so many teens and post teens are utterly in thrall to her.

Yes, you don't normally visit these pages for an extended critique on an album, but when it is a release of this kind of magnitude, one that everyone it seems has to take a stance on, how can you not hold an opinion on it?

Truly it does seem like everyone got involved here. Her 11th original studio album in all, The Tortured Poets Department this week becomes her 12th No.1 record in this country, debuting with an utterly gigantic sale of a shade over 270,000 chart sales. 79,000 of those come via streams, meaning that yes there were indeed almost 200,000 instances of people putting down money to own a copy of the album.

Stat Dump

That's the biggest opening week for an album in almost seven years (second only to her sometime duet partner Ed Sheeran), the biggest single week sale of the 2020s to date and perhaps most notably of all the biggest opening week sale for an album by an 'international' act since Ta-Dah by The Scissor Sisters moved 288,000 copies on release back in 2006.

Theoretically those No.1 albums have all come consecutively, dating back to the release of the original version of her commercial breakthrough Red back in 2012. Technically however that run has been interrupted by the release of two limited editions - a live version of Lover which crept to No.90 for a week in February 2023 and the Folklore - Long Pond Studio Sessions mini album which arrived in a Record Store Day physical release in May last year and briefly made No.4. But neither were proper studio albums, so we aren't counting them.

Taylor Swift now moves level with Madonna as the female artist with the most No.1 albums, and indeed there are only five others who have had as many as 12 chart-toppers. Keep an eye too on the fact she has now had at least one No.1 album in each of the last six years - edging closer to an all-time record presently held by The Beatles who managed one eight years on the bounce.

Look What You Made Her Do

Literal millions of streams naturally translated to hundreds of thousands of singles chart sales for the biggest tracks. Having been predicted on every midweek update to achieve a unique singles chart grand slam and have tracks enter at 1,2 and 3 she falls at the final hurdle, tracks by the American star instead entering at 1, 3 and 4. By a strange coincidence that's the exact pattern in which tracks from her last new studio album Midnights arrived a year and a half ago. This also means there is still one more record yet to fall - that of being the first female artist ever to occupy every position in the Top 3. Only Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran have managed it to date.

As the album's opening cut it was perhaps at an instant advantage but Fortnight emerges from the pile as the biggest track of them all, hitting No.1 with a colossal sale of its own of over 93,000. That is the biggest sale for a No.1 single so far this year and indeed the highest since Dave & Central Cee moved 108,000 copies of Sprinter in June last year. It also takes over as Swift's fastest-selling single of her career, beating the 88,000 that Look What You Made Me Do opened with back in 2007. Fortnight is - strange but true - only her fourth ever No.1 single in this country, her first since the aforementioned Is It Over Now (Taylor's Version) last year. The track is one of only a handful on the album to feature a guest vocal, coming courtesy of Post Malone who thus finally has a second No.1 single to call his own following 2017's Rockstar which spent four weeks at the top and launched him into stardom. Fortnight is the first No.1 single this year not performed by a solo artist, but it is also now the sixth No.1 single in a row to be performed by an overseas act.

Taylor Swift does the singles and albums chart double for the third time in her career and for the third year in a row. Can she just stop already?

The Rest

Hozier's former (for now) No.1 single Too Sweet spoils the Swift parade at No.2, but her other two hits of the week follow in short order, the album's title track at No.3 and Down Bad at No.4. The three singles are Taylor Swift's 27th, 28th and 29th Top 10 singles respectively. And almost needless to say but for prevailing chart rules she would have added to that total midweek - other tracks from TTPD which sold and streamed enough to theoretically occupy Top 10 places include I Can Do It With A Broken Heart (starred out between 4 and 5), So Long London (between 5 and 6) and My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys (ditto). The second of these was the track originally slated to become the third charting hit on midweek flashes but clearly sagged in appeal as the week went on.

This week's actual No.5 is Sabrina Carpenter's Espresso which Official Charts seem overjoyed to note is now the biggest hit single named after coffee since All Saints' 2000 No.1 hit of that name. So I feel honour bound to share that fact with you here. [And that actually isn't correct either, as Powfu's Death Bed (Coffee For Your Head) was a No.4 hit in 2020. Although the coffee there is incidental to the title, so who knows...]

He Can Rap Too

So then to the singles that aren't by Taylor Swift, because there are some worthy of note. Drake clearly picked his moment well to drop a new track, meaning Push Ups lands at a mere No.14 when nobody is paying attention. The track is notable for featuring the prolific Canadian dropping hip-hop rhymes in a manner he hasn't done since the very early days of his career. We drag him for endless numbers of hits that all sound the same, so he at least deserves credit for bringing to the table one that doesn’t.

Unlucky to miss out on a Top 40 place last week A Bar Song (Tipsy) by Shaboozey has a rocket strapped to its back and charges to No.16. One of Beyonce's collaborators on her Cowboy Carter album, the Nigerian-American performer rides the wage of C&W popularity into the mainstream in a manner which is quite glorious. Stereotyping performers based on their ethnicity is a dangerous path to tread, but Shaboozey (real name Collins Chibueze) stands out as a black man with African roots eschewing Afrobeats in favour of folk and Americana. Proving the old aphorism correct - it ain't where you are from, it is where you are at.

Also making pleasing chart progress is Lay Bankz' Tell UR Girlfriend which charges 31-18 while Chappell Roan's Good Luck Babe is also heading in the right direction with a jump to No.21.

Makes You Weep

Down at the basement, which is actually something of a shame, is Cry No More from Headie One, Stormzy and Tay Keith which opens its account at No.33. The tender trap ballad is the third collaboration between the two British stars, following Audacity from 2019 and Ain't It Different in 2020 which were both Top 10 hits. The race is on to work out what track the pitched-up vocals on the track are lifted on. Even Whosampled has so far only worked out the brief interpolation of Asake's Lonely At The Top - and even that is only because Stormzy cues it in himself.

In a week filled with superlatives it seems almost churlish to note a negative, but really how can we not. Perrie's hot new entry of last week becomes the biggest faller of this as Forget About Us was duly forgotten about by most of its consumers, diving 10-31. Hate to say it, but if Little Mix are going to be turned into solo stars then they really need to start appealing outside hardcore fandom. But Week 2 drop offs are by no means unusual. Last week's No.1 album by James, Yummy, takes a tumble all the way to No.74. You can bet your life this won't happen to Taylor.

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