Taylor Swift – the bestselling artist of 2009 – got even bigger in early November, when her third album, Speak Now, broke a million copies in its debut week, a feat that is almost unheard of in the post-Napster era. “There’s a huge trust factor between her and her fans, and they showed up,” says Scott Borchetta, Swift’s manager, adding that she’ll tour again in 2011 after selling an astonishing 625,000 concert tickets this year, according to Pollstar. “Her fan base is growing up with her. She hasn’t left anyone behind.”
Swift reacted to the news on Twitter: “I . . . Can’t . . . Believe . . . This . . . You guys have absolutely lit up my world.” Moving 1,047,000 copies of Speak Now, Swift had the second-best week ever for a female artist, after Britney Spears‘ Oops!… I Did It Again, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Swift got help from Target, which sold an exclusive deluxe edition of the disc and rolled out a massive campaign to promote it. She also built toward the release with blockbuster singles – including “Mine” – that topped the iTunes chart and got heavy spins from both pop and country radio. “[‘Mine’] was one of the only songs in years that we just walked right into the studio and said, ‘Here’s the record, play this,'” says Mike Brophey, program director for WKLB, Boston’s top country station. “She’s a phenomenon.”
Retailers predict the album will continue to sell strongly through Christmas and will also reignite sales of her first two albums; 2008’s Fearless is already back in the Top 40. “It’ll be a very strong record for us,” says Ish Cuebas, vice president of merchandising-music for Trans World Entertainment, one of the nation’s biggest record chains. “All her other albums continue to sell steadily.”
It doesn’t hurt that Speak Now has been received as Swift’s strongest, adding crunchy guitars and newly sophisticated lyrics about grownup relationships – without alienating her young fan base. “It’s not Miley Cyrus trying to jump from Hannah Montana to being a supersultry pop star,” says Clay Hunnicutt, senior vice president of country programming for Clear Channel Radio. “Taylor has done a great job of a natural progression from teenage superstar to beautiful woman.”
This story is from the November 25th, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone.