The song, which marks Swift’s eighth Hot Country Songs No. 1 and first to debut at the summit, leads the list in a second form, after her original version topped the charts dated Nov. 22 and 29, 2008.
Only one other composition has ruled Hot Country Songs in separate iterations by the same artist: Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” first led for a week in June 1974, followed by her updated recording for a week in October 1982.
The original “Love Story” was released from Swift’s second LP, 2008’s Fearless. The new take is from her forthcoming re-recording of the album, Fearless (Taylor’s Version). (Re-recordings of older songs or albums are treated separately from their originals, with independent chart histories for each version.)
“This is my first time having a No. 1 debut on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and I’m so grateful to the fans for making this a possibility,” Swift tells Billboard. “They’re the ones who emboldened me to reclaim my music and they really showed up this week to see it through. It blows me away that they’ve sent a song to No. 1 that had its first life over a decade ago. I couldn’t be happier that it happened now, and in this way.”
Released Feb. 12, the new version attracted 13.7 million U.S. streams in the week ending Feb. 18, according to MRC Data, and opens at No. 1 on Country Streaming Songs, awarding Swift her third leader.
The new track sold 25,000 downloads in its first frame and likewise drives in atop Country Digital Song Sales, marking Swift’s record-extending 15th No. 1, all of which have debuted at the pinnacle.
The re-recording, which is not being actively promoted to radio, also drew 1.1 million all-format airplay audience impressions in the week ending Feb. 21 (with 9% from Country Airplay chart reporters; the bulk were from Adult Pop Airplay, Adult Contemporary and Pop Airplay panelists combined).
How did the 2008 “Love Story” fare in the tracking week? It drew 3.4 million streams, up 34%, and sold 700 downloads, up 79%, both well below the metrics of the new version. The original drew a higher radio audience, 1.9 million in the same period, as it’s long been a staple of rotation at pop, adult and country stations among other big hits of its era.
Swift tops Hot Country Songs for the first time since “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” dominated for 10 weeks in 2012-13, after which she segued more fully to pop with her 2014 LP 1989.
Here’s a recap of Swift’s eight Hot Country Songs No. 1s (her first six of which led when the chart reflected solely country radio airplay):
“Our Song,” six weeks, beginning Dec. 22, 2007
“Should’ve Said No,” two, Aug. 23, 2008
“Love Story,” two, Nov. 22, 2008
“You Belong With Me,” two, Aug. 22, 2009
“Sparks Fly,” one, Nov. 26, 2011
“Ours,” one, March 31, 2012
“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” 10, Oct. 20, 2012
“Love Story (Taylor’s Version),” one to-date, Feb. 27, 2021
Adding to her honors, Swift is the first artist to have led Hot Country Songs in the 2000s, ’10s and ’20s.
Meanwhile, “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” is just the eighth single to launch at No. 1 on Hot Country Songs since the survey began as an all-encompassing genre ranking in October 1958. It’s the first by a woman and no other accompanying artists, and just the second by a woman overall, after Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line’s “Meant to Be” began its record 50-week reign in December 2017.
Swift adds her 24th Hot Country Songs top 10 and third since last August, when “Betty” arrived at its No. 6 peak. Current promoted radio single “No Body, No Crime,” featuring Haim, flew in at its No. 2 high in December. The songs are from her 2020 albums Folklore and Evermore, respectively.
While Swift and Parton are the only artists to top Hot Country Songs with multiple versions of the same song, other hits, by some of the format’s biggest icons, have come close. Parton herself charted a third version of “I Will Always Love You”: As a duet with Vince Gill, it hit No. 15 in 1995.
Waylon Jennings’ “Good Hearted Woman” hit No. 3 in 1972. Updated with Willie Nelson, the duet reigned in 1976. Plus, Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” first reached No. 4 on the Most Played by Jockeys chart in 1956 before his live version, recorded at Folsom Prison in Folsom, Calif., led Hot Country Songs for four weeks in 1968.
(Honorable mention: Webb Pierce’s “There Stands the Glass” topped multiple country charts in 1953. Sam Hunt sampled the classic in his single “Hard to Forget,” which reached No. 3 on Hot Country Songs last June and led Country Airplay in July.)
“Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” concurrently debuts at No. 11 on the all-genre, multi-metric Billboard Hot 100. It opens as Swift’s record-padding 22nd No. 1 on Digital Song Sales. The song is her 129th Hot 100 entry, extending her mark for the most among women. Contributing to the haul, the original “Love Story” rose to No. 4 on the Hot 100 in January 2009.
Additional reporting by Tom Roland.