Why Taylor Swift’s new album might be bigger than Eminem’s ‘Recovery’
We’re still three months away from the October 25 release of Taylor Swift’s third album, Speak Now, and already the pressure is on. Although her label, Big Machine Records, is forecasting first-week sales of 750,000, which would put it just ahead of 2010’s biggest debut so far, Eminem’s Recovery, which opened at 741,000, some industry executives are wondering if she could be the first artist to top the one-million-in-week-one mark since Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III’s 1,005,545 seven-day total in June of 2008.
Personally, I’m not ready for another round of Swift, but if she can assist Eminem in lifting the music industry out of its current sales doldrums, I’ll grudgingly root for her. And I agree with Will Botwin, president/CEO of Red Light Management and ATO Records, who recently told Billboard magazine why the odds are stacked in her favor.
It feels like if anybody can do it now, she could be the one. She has the sales base and the heat from the last two albums. And with all the amazing things she has going on, she is as likely as anybody to reach a million units, especially with the efforts of Big Machine and Universal behind her.”
That’s not all she has on her side. The fourth-quarter release date immediately gives Speak Now a sales edge. Album sales typically peak from the end of September through the holidays, with people purchasing more music as Christmas gifts and a larger number of major stars releasing new music, which drives increased traffic into record stores and onto iTunes and Amazon.
Swift’s previous album, 2008’s Fearless, also was released during the fourth quarter (November), and it sold 592,000 copies in its first week. Though the industry has slumped further since then, Swift has gotten much bigger, becoming the most successful country-pop crossover star since Shania Twain. Lady Gaga might get more attention, but Swift sells more albums in the U.S., if not worldwide. In 2009, Forbes listed her at No. 12 on its list of the 100 richest and most powerful celebrities, with $45 million in earnings, up from No. 69 and $18 million in 2009. (In comparison, Gaga, whose international profile is considerably higher than Swift’s, was No. 4 in 2009, with $62 million, while Eminem didn’t make the list.)
In addition to her increased earning potential, Swift now has a busload of industry awards, including an Album of the Year Grammy (for Fearless); she’s been in a hit movie (Valentine’s Day); she’s gotten the Kanye West seal of disapproval; and she’s become a major media star without having to suffer a public meltdown, get arrested or take off her clothes.
She’s also an independent women — a singer, songwriter and producer — putting her completely in charge of quality control. Swift has said that she wrote every song on Speak Now by herself, and she co-produced it with her Fearless/Taylor Swift collaborator Nathan Chapman, which means she probably won’t be giving herself a bad ill-advised makeover to prove to the world that she can’t be tamed — and hopefully, there won’t be any poorly spelled song titles (“California Gurls,” ugh!) or misplaced rap cameos to stink up the proceedings.
Although I still don’t think she belongs in the company of the Paul Simons and Laura Nyros of the songwriting world, her description of the first single, “Mine,” due in mid August, sounds promising. She recently explained what it’s all about on Ustream.
My tendency to run from love… Every really direct example of love that I’ve had in front of me has ended in goodbye and has ended in break ups and things like that. So I think I’ve developed this pattern of sort of running away when it comes time to fall in love. This song is sort of about finding the exception to that.”
OK, so she’s about as eloquent as you can expect any 21 year old to be, but the subject matter would appear to be more universal and less high school than “Love Story” or “You Belong with Me.” And what I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall the first time her ex, Joe Jonas, hears this one.