Inside Taylor Swift's all-conquering debut week for Folklore

Taylor Swift

The album release may have been a surprise, but Taylor Swift kept up her incredible track record on the UK chart as Folklore (EMI) smashed straight in at No.1 on today’s chart (July 31).

EMI MD Clive Cawley hailed “the defining album of Taylor’s career” as the highly-acclaimed record, released with less than 24 hours notice, sold 37,060 copies in its first week in the UK, and ensured Swift becomes the first female artist to score five No.1 studio albums in the 21st century. It follows Swift smashing a number of global streaming records as Folklore made its bow.

Swift’s UK No.1 hot streak started with Red in 2012 and also incorporates 2014’s 1989, 2017’s Reputation and last year’s Lover album. All four of those albums are also in this week’s Top 200, with sales surging week-on-week by between 45.2% and 54.6%, and Lover now up to No.22.

With no physical release yet in stores, as expected, Folklore couldn’t quite match Lover’s debut of 53,015 – but it did improve on that previous record’s stream and download count. Folklore posts 24,050 streams, the biggest UK week one album streams by a female artist in 2020, and significantly up on Lover’s 17,891 tally. Indeed, it represents Swift’s biggest week one streams of her career in the UK.

The superstar singer-songwriter also sold a remarkable 12,152 album downloads (Lover had 11,074), outselling the rest of the Top 100 combined, for the biggest download week one of the year.

And Swift also took over the singles chart, with three Top 10 singles: Cardigan at No.6, her Bon Iver collaboration, Exile, at No.8 (delivering Bon Iver’s biggest ever hit) and The 1 at No.10. If chart rules didn’t prevent an artist from charting more than three songs as a lead artist, tracks from Folklore would also have been at Nos. 13, 15, 18, 21, 24, 31, 36, 37, 40, 42, 45 and 51.

The surprise release represented a big test for Swift’s UK label, EMI – she signed a groundbreaking deal with Republic in the US after leaving Big Machine – now under the new leadership of president Rebecca Allen. But Cawley said the newly-renamed label rose to the challenge.

“It feels beyond superb, everyone hit the battlements in record-breaking time across all areas, and I feel we delivered across every department,” Cawley said, speaking exclusively to Music Week. “All our partners were incredibly responsive and supportive and the public responded likewise. It was a beacon of light amidst the miserable darkness of Covid-19.”

Fuelled by Swift’s success, EMI tops this week’s market shares in six of Music Week’s eight metrics. Cawley said that, while the lack of build-up – in contrast to Swift’s usual campaigns – was “challenging”, “the general consensus is, the excitement and heads-down speed we had to hit, made it even more fun (in a slightly masochistic way)!”

“We can take no credit for the incredible music and creative alongside that,” he added. “All we could and did do was give it the smack out of the park it deserved. In terms of what this record has delivered, the biggest week one downloads of any album in 2020, beating Lover’s week one of downloads and streaming, and also making Taylor the first female artist in the 21st century to have five No.1 studio albums - what we’ve learned is that quality shines through and always will.”

EMI will now look to build on the success, with Folklore attracting the best reviews of even Swift’s storied career.

“Having delivered what I and many, many people believe to be the most defining album of Taylor’s career, our only plan is to do it the greatest service we can,” said Cawley. “No stone will be left unturned, no idea [will be] too weird to at least be considered, the beauty of the record – Exile is on endless repeat for me – means Taylor’s done her part, and we now need to take it as far and wide as we can. She’s a one-of-a-kind artist for everyone, and it’s just an honour to be along for the ride.”

Meanwhile, in Ireland, Swift also went to No.1 with the biggest week one sale of 2020 so far. It’s her fifth Irish No.1, making her the female artist with the most No.1 records of the 21st century there, surpassing Madonna and Beyoncé. She also has three tracks in the Irish Top 10 Singles.

* To read our review of Folklore, click here. To read our 2019 Taylor Swift cover story, click here. To make sure you can access Music Week wherever you are, sign up to our digital issue by clicking here.

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