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Introducing the Queen of Pop

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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

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

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