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The Teen Queen of 2008: Taylor Swift

How the country-pop star sold 4 million albums and ruled '08

February 5, 2009
Taylor Swift, New Years Eve, 2009, December, Time Square
Taylor Swift performs at the New Year's Eve 2009 celebration in Times Square on December 31th, 2008 in New York City.
Ray Tamarra/Getty

Lil Wayne and Coldplay may have battled it out for 2008's top-selling album, but the year's indisputable winner was a 19-year-old who loves banjos and Def Leppard. Taylor Swift scored the type of figures that made record executives swoon like it was the Nineties: Fearless, her second album, moved 2.1 million units (her 2006 debut, Taylor Swift, moved another 1.6 million in '08), and her teen fans legally purchased 8.7 million digital tracks. According to Scott Borchetta, president of her label, Big Machine, the key was crossing over — but carefully. "Taylor loves walking into a pop station wearing cowboy boots and a sundress," he says. "It was never 'Hey, I wanna be a pop star.' This is one of those rare moments where your music transcends format."

This is a story from the February 5, 2009 issue of Rolling Stone.

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