When Taylor Swift asked her devoted fans to meet her at midnight, Swifties showed up in droves to support her. But how did Swift arrive at her 10th studio album Midnights? And, more importantly, how did her previous nine LPs prime her to have the biggest album of her career?
It all started with Swift’s self-titled album, which she released in 2006 at age 16. The album peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 chart, and keeping up that momentum, the then-rising star returned in 2008 with her sophomore album Fearless, which spent 11 nonconsecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. The accolades didn’t stop there: The project earned four Grammy Awards, including the coveted album of the year award, making her the youngest artist at the time to receive the honor.
The year 2010 saw the release of Swift’s Speak Now. In addition to once again hitting No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the record additionally sold 1 million units in its debut week. Red, her 2012 follow-up, saw Swift headed in a new direction musically, combining the best of her country roots with pure pop. The record resulted in her first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” Though Red was commercially successful, it failed to pick up any Grammys, leading her to focus on creating a more cohesive body of work with 1989, and her concentrated efforts paid off — it was her second album of the year winner and included three Hot 100 No. 1s: “Shake It Off,” “Blank Space” and “Bad Blood.”
The latter half of Swift’s discography spans Reputation, Lover, Folklore and Evermore — in addition to her re-recorded Taylor’s versions of Red and Fearless. Learn more about these projects in the latest installment of Billboard Explains in the video above.
After the video, catch up on more Billboard Explains videos and learn about how Beyoncé arrived at Renaissance, the evolution of girl groups, BBMAs, NFTs, SXSW, the magic of boy bands, American Music Awards, the Billboard Latin Music Awards, the Hot 100 chart, how R&B/hip-hop became the biggest genre in the U.S., how festivals book their lineups, Billie Eilish’s formula for success, the history of rap battles, nonbinary awareness in music, the Billboard Music Awards, the Free Britney movement, rise of K-pop in the U.S., why Taylor Swift is re-recording her first six albums, the boom of hit all-female collaborations, how Grammy nominees and winners are chosen, why songwriters are selling their publishing catalogs, how the Super Bowl halftime show is booked and why Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” was able to shoot to No. 1 on the Hot 100.