In the summer of 2019, after Taylor Swift’s first six albums were sold as part of a deal for her original record company, an idea was floated — by Kelly Clarkson, no less — that seemed an unlikely lark: that Swift could rerecord replicas of those albums, in part as revenge against investors who had traded her creative work like real estate. (Something that, to be fair, happens almost daily in the music business.)
But with “Fearless (Taylor’s Version),” a newly released simulacrum of her 2008 breakthrough LP, that lark has become Swift’s latest smash hit. The new “Fearless” opened at the top of Billboard’s latest album chart with the equivalent of 291,000 sales in the United States — the biggest debut of the year, and Swift’s third No. 1 in just under nine months, after her surprise pandemic LPs “Folklore” and “Evermore.” It is Swift’s ninth No. 1 album altogether.
According to MRC Data, Billboard’s tracking arm, Swift’s new album had 143 million streams in its opening week — only a little above the weekly average for No. 1 albums this year, and less than recent hits by Justin Bieber, Morgan Wallen and Rod Wave have had in their opening weeks.
Yet “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” also sold 179,000 copies as a complete package, as fans rushed to buy CDs, triple vinyl LPs and full-album downloads. That is far more than for any other title this year — more, in fact, than for any album since Swift’s “Folklore” opened with 615,000 copies sold in July, before a revision to Billboard’s chart rules that curtailed retail bundles and delayed when the sales of many physical releases were counted on the chart.
The success of “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” has also accomplished what appeared to be one of Swift’s goals: burying the original “Fearless.” On last week’s edition of the Billboard 200 chart, “Fearless” was No. 157, with the equivalent of 7,700 sales; this week, it dropped by 19 percent to 6,200, and fell off the chart entirely.
On Sunday, Swift greeted the news of the chart success of “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” by saying she was already at work on her next rerecording. Some fans, minutely analyzing Swift’s every public move, has guessed that she will next turn to “1989,” her blockbuster hit from 2014 that included hits like “Shake It Off” and “Blank Space.” But Swift has not specified her plans.
Also this week, “The Best of DMX” rose 71 spots to No. 2 after the news of the rapper’s death on April 9, at age 50. The compilation had the equivalent of 77,000 sales, including nearly 89 million streams and 9,000 copies sold as a full album.
Last week’s top album, Bieber’s “Justice,” fell two spots to No. 3, Wallen’s “Dangerous: The Double Album” is No. 4 and Rod Wave’s “SoulFly” is No. 5.
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