Taylor Swift Debuts at No. 1 on Billboard 200 With ‘Tortured Poets Department’

The Charts

Only the Beatles have more No. 1 LPs now: The pop superstar reigns atop the Billboard 200 for the 14th time with the equivalent of 2.6 million album sales.

Taylor Swift, in a pale-blue strapless dress, poses with one hand on her hip in front of a theater.
In its first week out, Taylor Swift’s “The Tortured Poets Department” had the equivalent of 2.6 million album sales in the United States, the biggest first-week take since Adele’s “25” in 2015.Credit…Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Ben Sisario

There was never any doubt that Taylor Swift’s latest release, “The Tortured Poets Department,” was going to be big. The question was just how big.

And the answer is, gigantic.

“The Tortured Poets Department,” Swift’s 11th studio album, opens at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart with historic numbers, including huge results in streaming and vinyl sales. It is Swift’s 14th chart-topping title, tying her with Jay-Z for the second-most No. 1 albums by any act in the 68-year history of Billboard’s flagship album chart; only the Beatles, with 19, have more.

In its first week out, “Tortured Poets” had the equivalent of 2.6 million album sales in the United States, according to Luminate, which tracks the data behind Billboard’s charts. That is the biggest overall first-week take for any album since Adele’s “25” in 2015, which opened with nearly 3.5 million, driven by in-store CD sales.

The “equivalent” figure is a composite, based on a formula used by Luminate and Billboard to reconcile the various ways listeners now buy and consume music. And in each way, “Tortured Poets” was a smash.

It sold 1.9 million copies in traditional album sales, including 859,000 for vinyl alone, which blew away Swift’s own previous record of 693,000 LPs, set just six months ago. Advance sales through Swift’s website — begun the day Swift announced the album, at the Grammy Awards — were key. She offered an array of tinted vinyl variants and CDs, some in “deluxe” versions advertised with autographs or on-brand trinkets like engraved bookmarks that went for as much as $50 apiece. According to Billboard, 1.4 million copies of the album were sold on its first day, many preordered over the last two months.

The opening followed a promotional blitz that included a blanketing of social media and radio, tie-ins with streaming platforms and IRL happenings like an Easter-egg-filled library installation at a Los Angeles shopping center. “Tortured Poets” also arrived following several years of Swift’s increasing saturation of pop culture, with her Eras Tour generating an estimated $1 billion in ticket sales last year, with months left to go.

In traditional album sales, “Tortured Poets” had the third-biggest result since SoundScan, the predecessor of Luminate, began keeping reliable sales data in 1991. Ahead of it are only ’N Sync’s “No Strings Attached” (2.4 million in 2000) and “25,” which sold just under 3.4 million copies when it came out. (Adele did not initially release her full album on streaming services, but the streams for its first single, “Hello,” added a bit to her overall number.)

Swift’s vinyl take alone is an eye-popping high-water mark in the format’s long-bubbling revival. As recently as 2006, only about 900,000 LPs were sold in the United States in an entire year. By embracing the format and releasing collectible editions, Swift nearly equaled that sum herself in a single week. In 2023, according to Billboard, she moved 3.5 million vinyl records, about one out of every 15 LPs sold in the United States.

Two hours after Swift released the 16-track “Tortured Poets,” she revealed an “Anthology” edition of it — digital only, at least for now — that expanded the original LP into a double album with 15 additional songs. The full 31-track digital doorstopper garnered 891 million streams in the United States in its first week, another high; the previous record, 746 million for Drake’s 25-track “Scorpion,” had stood since 2018.

According to Swift’s label, Republic Records, “Tortured Poets” had the equivalent of four million sales around the world last week, and it starts at No. 1 on charts in Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Australia and various other countries.

Reviews of “Tortured Poets” were mixed to positive; in addition to outright raves (Rolling Stone labeled it an “instant classic”), some criticized the length of the full double album and the quality of Swift’s latest songs. In The New York Times, Lindsay Zoladz called the release “sprawling and often self-indulgent,” and deemed the 15 added tracks “largely superfluous.” The review-aggregation site Metacritic credited the initial “Tortured Poets” LP with an overall score of 76 out of 100, and gave “The Anthology” a 69. Those may be passing grades, but for Swift — whose last new studio LP, “Midnights,” got an 85 — they are notably low, and suggest a split in critical versus popular opinion about the superstar’s music.

Any naysaying reviews, however, did nothing to slow the consumption of “Tortured Poets.” Swiftie attention has now shifted to the European leg of her tour, which begins near Paris on May 9, and whether any of her latest batch of songs will make the set list.

Also on this week’s chart, Future and Metro Boomin’s “We Don’t Trust You,” the first of the Atlanta hip-hop stars’ two recent collaborative releases, is No. 2. (Their second, “We Still Don’t Trust You,” was No. 1 last week but falls to No. 6.) Beyoncé’s “Cowboy Carter” is No. 3 and Morgan Wallen’s “One Thing at a Time” is No. 4. Pearl Jam’s “Dark Matter” opens at No. 5, the veteran rock band’s 13th LP to reach the Top 10.

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Harry Byrne

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