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Introducing the Queen of Pop

Page 2 of 11

Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift
Joseph Anthony Baker

ALBUM SALES

Country-to-pop crossover princess Taylor Swift is the undisputed leader here, and she would have dominated even further if we'd gone back another year or two. No artist, male or female, of any genre, has sold as many albums as Taylor has over the late aughts and early part of this decade. The 9.8 million in album sales Swift has piled up since the start of 2009 include her still-selling self-titled debut from 2006; her 2008 Grammy-winning blockbuster, Fearless; and her latest, 2010's Speak Now, which sold more than a million copies in its first week last November.

Recently joining Swift in the million-weeker club is our second-place finisher Lady Gaga, whose Born This Way has piled up 1.4 million in sales (a sizable chunk of which went for a buck on Amazon the day the album came out in May). That's on top of the multiplatinum sales rung up by Gaga's The Fame and The Fame Monster. In 2011, Gaga's having a bigger year than Swift, but over our two-and-a-half-year period Swift outsells Gaga by 2.6 million units.

Taylor Swift: A History in Photos

Swift also outsells her Nashville-recording peer Carrie Underwood by a three-to-one margin – a sure sign of the changing of the guard among 21st-century poised, blonde country chanteuses. If we'd gone back to the mid-aughts, Underwood would have fared better: her 2005 debut Some Hearts is seven-times-platinum, higher than any of Swift's albums has been certified (the latter's biggest-seller to date is the six-times-platinum Fearless). But Underwood's sales have eroded with each release – 2007's Carnival Ride is triple-platinum, and 2009's Play On is double-platinum. Falloffs like that are precisely why we limited our Queen of Pop coverage period to the recent past.

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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