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Ask Billboard: All-Taylor Swift Edition

A look at potential next singles from "1989," Swift's top-selling albums and singles, and the rarity of her domination on multiple Billboard charts.

As always, submit questions about Billboard charts, as well as general music musings, to askbb@billboard.com. Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S. Or, Tweet @gthot20


This mailbag’s all about Taylor Swift, because of course it is.

First up, a question that “Ask Billboard” asked you: what should the next singles from 1989 be after lead track “Shake It Off” and, now, “Blank Space.” Now that you, and approximately 1.28 million fellow Swift fans, have become familiar with the set in its first week, along with another 400,000 or so in its second frame, here’s how a sample of your responses stacked up, in a (very) unscientific poll via email and Twitter.


The next 1989 singles should be:

First choice:
“All You Had to Do Was Stay”
“I Know Places”

Next …
“New Romantics”
“Wildest Dreams”

Then …
“Bad Blood”
“Out of the Woods”

It’s fun to play record executive, isn’t it? I want to, too!

I agree with the top tier of picks, with “Style,” to me, easily the most obvious choice for a hit single, and my pick for 1989‘s third radio release. Unsurprisingly, given its laid-back, yet persistent, tempo, Ali Payami co-wrote the song, with Max Martin (among others, including Swift); the two collaborated on Ariana Grande and The Weeknd’s new single, which bears a resemblance, “Love Me Harder.” On my first listens, two 1989 songs jumped out as having the most obvious hooks: “Shake It Off” and “Style.” With the former atop the Billboard Hot 100 for a third total week, perhaps the latter would similarly capture such coveted acclaim.

If “Style” were released third, after “Shake” and “Space,” it feels like a change of tempo would be needed next. So, as the fourth 1989 single, I’m going with “I Know Places.” As it sports the magic co-writing touch of Ryan Tedder, it’s easy to imagine hearing this song on pop and adult radio (among so many others by Swift and Tedder).

Fifth: The hook of “Bad Blood” seems too undeniable for the song not to be a single. (Perhaps it’s a bit young-skewing in sound for AC radio, but likely not by much.) It’s also Ed Sheeran’s favorite 1989 track, which could influence the decision, given their friendship and track record of musical collaborations. “I played it for Ed as soon as I wrote it, which I think was about a year ago,” according to Swift. “At that point, it was just a really basic demo track … and he was going, ‘This has to be the first single! This has to be the first single!’ I was like, ‘Eh, we’ll see.’ “

Not many albums release six singles … although it’s become common for Swift. Her last album, 2012’s Red, yielded six: four for pop/adult radio and two specifically for country (“Begin Again” and “Red”). With Swift now not targeting country, her superstardom would still seem to afford as many as six singles over a likely two-year stretch (her average span between album releases). For a sixth 1989 track, I’m diverging from the list above and picking “How You Get the Girl,” mostly because it’s a return to the fun vibe of “Shake,” while also harkening back to early, and, thus, familiar, Swift.

Other possibilities (basically in case they’re released as singles and become big hits and I want to be able to say that I at least mentioned them): “Out of the Woods,” “Wildest Dreams” and “I Wish You Would.”

Meanwhile, ballad “This Love” deserves mention, although it might be too stark for radio. (Then again, Adele’s “Someone Like You” and John Legend’s All of Me” have proven that songs with minimal production can still be huge radio hits, if they’re compelling enough.) “Love” (the only 1989 song that Swift wrote herself) is simple and captivates with a gentle, yet obvious, hook.

Then next 24-months-or-so will reveal how 1989‘s singles play out.

In the meantime, here’s Billboard‘s Nov. 8 cover artist to reinforce my pick for Swift’s next single, “Style,” as relayed through Swift: “I played my friend Ella [ed. note: Lorde] ‘Style’ as we were driving down the PCH [ed. note: Pacific Coast Highway] and we were going to lunch in Malibu” [ed. note: that’s too pricey for you and me]. “I said, ‘Hey, I just finished this thing … can I play it for you?’ And, I remember when that beat drops in the intro of the song …

“She was just like, ‘Yeahhhhh!’ “


Here’s the other main question that’s been on readers/Swift fans’ minds upon the arrival of 1989:

Hi Gary! I’m Jason Viola from the Philippines. I just want to know the career sales of the lovely Taylor Swift. Thank you!

Here are Swift’s best-selling digital songs and her top-selling albums in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan:

5.8 million, “Love Story”
5 million, “I Knew You Were Trouble.”
4.5 million, “You Belong With Me”
3.9 million, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”
3.2 million, “Our Song”
2.9 million, “Teardrops on My Guitar”
2.7 million, “Shake It Off”
2.3 million, “Mean”
2.2 million, “Mine”
2 million, “22”

1.9 million, “White Horse”
1.9 million, “Back to December”
1.8 million, “Safe & Sound”
1.6 million, “Today Was a Fairytale”
1.6 million, “Picture to Burn”
1.5 million, “Tim McGraw”
1.4 million, “Ours”
1.4 million, “Red”
1.4 million, “Should’ve Said No”
1.3 million, “Fifteen”
1.3 million, “Eyes Open”
1 million, “Crazier”

Fittingly, given the song that ranks 10th in the above list, Swift has released 22 songs that have each sold 1 million or more downloads.

6.9 million, Fearless (2008)
5.5 million, Taylor Swift (2006)
4.4 million, Speak Now (2010)
4.1 million, Red (2012)
1.3 million, 1989 (2014)
1 million, The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection (EP; 2007)
347,000, Speak Now: World Tour Live CD + DVD (2011)
317,000, Beautiful Eyes (EP; 2008)

Swift’s career U.S. album sales stand at 24.2 million. She ranks as the 50th-best-selling album act since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991. Impressively, the 49 acts in her way all started their careers long before 2006, when Swift released her first album.

The top artist on the list? One who’ll add to his sum with today’s (Nov. 11) release of his first studio album in 13 years, Man Against Machine. Garth Brooks has sold 69.6 million albums in the U.S. since 1991. He leads runners-up the Beatles (66.1 million), while Metallica ranks third (54.6 million).

(Brooks first reached a Billboard chart in, of course … 1989. That March 25, “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)” debuted on Hot Country Songs at No. 94, eventually becoming his first of 36 career top 10s.)


As noted in last week’s item covering Swift’s reign atop the Billboard Artist 100 chart, it might be easier to list the charts that Swift currently doesn’t lead. Her domination led to this question:

@gthot20 when was the last time an artist simultaneously topped the Hot 100 (songs), Billboard 200 (albums), Digital Songs and Radio Songs charts?

Clayd Yila ?@ClaydYila

Great question. Last week, Swift topped the Hot 100 and Radio Songs with “Shake It Off,” the Billboard 200 with 1989 and Digital Songs with “Blank Space.”

The last time that an act ruled the overall albums chart and the Hot 100 and its two senior-most component charts (as Streaming Songs didn’t launch until last year)? Actually … last year, while such a chart grand slam has been achieved by eight acts in the last decade.

Each example points to, as in Swift’s case, an all-out command of the music landscape:

50 Cent, March 19-April 9, 2005
Billboard 200: The Massacre
Hot 100, Radio Songs, Digital Songs: “Candy Shop”

Justin Timberlake, Sept. 30-Oct. 7, 2006
Billboard 200: FutureSex/LoveSounds
Hot 100, Radio Songs, Digital Songs: “SexyBack”

Alicia Keys, Dec. 1, 2007
Billboard 200: As I Am
Hot 100, Radio Songs, Digital Songs: “No One”

T.I., Oct. 18, 2008
Billboard 200: Paper Trail
Hot 100, Digital Songs: “Live Your Life”
Radio Songs: “Whatever You Like”

The Black Eyed Peas, June 27, 2009
Billboard 200: The E.N.D.
Hot 100, Radio Songs: “Boom Boom Pow”
Digital Songs: “I Gotta Feeling”

Adele, June 25, 2011
Billboard 200: 21
Hot 100, Radio Songs, Digital Songs: “Rolling in the Deep”

Robin Thicke, Aug. 17, 2013
Billboard 200: Blurred Lines
Hot 100, Radio Songs, Digital Songs: “Blurred Lines”

Taylor Swift, Nov. 15, 2014
Billboard 200: 1989
Hot 100, Radio Songs: “Shake It Off”
Digital Songs: “Blank Space”

Speaking of 2005, when 50 Cent spent four weeks atop the four charts … how long ago it seems, considering that that’s the year that Swift teamed up with Scott Borchetta, the Big Machine Records founder who signed the teenaged Swift to his then-new label.

It might seem even longer ago when viewing this clip by the artist who, within a year, would begin her takeover on Billboard charts, a run that, as of 1989/2014, is still hitting new heights.