Taylor Swift’s latest album Red has, predictably, topped the Billboard charts in its debut week. More unexpectedly, the pop sensation has sold 1.2 million copies, becoming the first album to do so in a single week since 2002, when Eminem’s The Eminem Show sold 1.3 million copies. The success of Red is leaps and bounds ahead of the previous fastest-selling albums of 2012—including the year’s previous biggest seller, Mumford and Sons, who sold almost exactly half as many. While to some extent this simply highlights how low the music industry’s expectations have fallen in 10 years in terms of record sales, it is a testament to Swift’s star power that she has literally doubled the best anyone else could do.
As Vulture points out, while Lady Gaga’s Born This Way accomplished a similar feat last year—selling approximately 1.1 million copies in one week—that album was likely bolstered by Amazon’s two-day promotion of 99-cent copies. (In contrast, a copy of Red will currently cost you $7.99 on the site.) Given the increased emphasis on single sales via iTunes, music streaming on sites like YouTube, and the rise of illegal downloading, it is now considered a huge success for even a very popular artist to sell 300,000 copies out of the gate. Even the relatively recent days when acts like Eminem and Britney Spears inspired fans to rush out and purchase their latest releases are far behind us. In other words, if you had any doubt before as to Swift’s cultural cachet, you should never ever think that way again.