Is Taylor Swift failing on the charts? Here's why her first two singles haven't soared
Tuesday - 10/10/2017 07:21
Taylor Swift and Cardi B led this week's Billboard Hot 100 chart at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.
Video provided by Newsy Newslook
Taylor Swift is staring down one of the biggest months of her career, with her new album Reputationarriving on Nov. 10 amid a marketing whirlwind of flashy music-video debuts and big-name brandpartnerships that helped launch her first two singles, Look What You Made Me Do and ...Ready For It.
Yet, on this week's Hot 100, Look What You Made Me Do is currently sitting at No. 5, with ...Ready For It likely to fall even further than its No. 39 position last week.
Even with Reputation's elaborate rollout, which is likely going to intensify over the next few weeks, Look What You Made Me Do and ...Ready For It appear to be falling short of the historic chart success Swift saw with her 2014 album 1989.
This time three years ago, 1989's lead single, Shake It Off, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song spent its first 12 weeks on the Hot 100 at either No. 1 or No. 2 before it was dethroned by Swift's second 1989 single, Blank Space, making her the first female artist to replace herself on top of the charts.
That moment was a "peak moment in her career," according to David Bakula, Nielsen Entertainment's senior vice president of analytics.
"Shake it Off was her first foray into pop radio, and there was this massive wave of people anticipating her switching over to a pop type of song," Bakula says. "When you look at the radio comparisons between the two, (Look) is not getting the type of massive reactions that Shake it Off did."
Look What You Made Me Do spent three weeks at No. 1 before falling to No. 5 this week, sitting behind Cardi B's Bodak Yellow in the top spot, Post Malone and 21 Savage's Rockstar at No. 2, and J Balvin and Willy William's Mi Gente and Logic's 1-800-273-8255 at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively. Meanwhile, ...Ready For It debuted at No. 4 before tumbling down the Hot 100, landing at No. 39 last week.
While 1989 was Swift's first self-proclaimed pop album, she also saw Hot 100 success with her 2012 album Red, earning her first No. 1 song with the album's lead single, We Are Never Getting Back Together, which spent three weeks at the top spot.
Bakula sees ...Ready for It more as an experiment for Swift, especially considering its rap-sung lyrics and more divisive pop stylings.
"I would say it’s a little more of a strategy of, ‘Let’s get as much music out there as is ready to go,' " he says. "Certainly, I don’t think anybody would argue that this a little more challenging content for her. She’s experimenting with different stylizations and things like that, so you’re going to get...some fans saying, ‘Yes, go Taylor,’ and some saying, ‘This isn’t the Taylor I remember.’ "
Reputation's first two singles may be falling on the Hot 100, but as Billboard's co-director of charts Gary Trust points out, the songs continue to rise on the pop songs chart, "which is really her home chart at this point."
"To come right back (in 2017) with another hit with the first single from the album, that’s a pretty big accomplishment," he says.
Yet, the Hot 100's landscape is fundamentally different now than it was in 2014, when Swift landed her back-to-back No. 1 singles. Hip-hop has since become the dominant genre on streaming services, democratizing the kind of songs that are able to reach No. 1. That helps explain why Look is sitting at No. 5 this week, below tracks like Bodak Yellow and Rockstar, two breakout hits from rising rappers driven by strong streaming numbers.
"You can also look at it as, those are two hip-hop hits, and Taylor still has the largest hits from the pop side," Trust says. "Taylor is still huge, there are just two other songs in front of her at the moment that streaming is driving."
Yet, with five weeks to go until Reputation's debut, Swift is losing the charts game to fresher faces with buzzier hits. That's the nature of the music industry in 2017, in which a viral hip-hop song can be just as dominant as a pop single with powerhouse marketing behind it.
After releasing her first two singles to mixed results, Swift has gone silent, likely plotting her next move. Beyond the mixed reception of its initial singles, Reputation also has a high bar to clear in 1989's enormous debut, selling 1.287 million copies in its first week.
While it's almost certain that Reputation will premiere on top of the charts, Swift will need to prove her longevity as an artist to match the success of 1989's 11-week run at No. 1. And considering the mixed results of her two lead singles, that consistency is something Swift's Reputation era has yet to see.