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How long can Taylor Swift dominate the album chart?

Taylor Swift performs in France during the European leg of her record-breaking Eras Tour on June 2.
Jeff Pachoud
/
Getty Images
Taylor Swift performs in France during the European leg of her record-breaking Eras Tour on June 2.

As summertime gets into full swing, the charts of the country’s most popular songs and albums are still being dominated by two very familiar names: Post Malone and Taylor Swift. Given that summertime is usually ruled by individual (and often ephemeral) bangers rather thanfull albums, we might be seeing a full Swiftie season ahead on the albums chart. The Billboard Hot 100 songs chart, on the other hand, is less steady, especially in recent years, when we’ve seen the meteoric rise of newbies’ hits springing out of social media ("Rich Men North of Richmond," anyone?), so that’s where we might see more movement in the weeks to come.

TOP SONGS

Most of this week's top five on Billboard’s Hot 100 looks remarkably like last week's: Post Malone's "I Had Some Help" featuring Morgan Wallen is at No. 1 for the third week in a row, trailed by Kendrick Lamar's "Not Like Us," Tommy Richman's "Million Dollar Baby" and Shaboozey's "Tipsy (A Bar Song)."

There's one newcomer among their ranks: former Disney star-turned-singer Sabrina Carpenter, whose disco-inflected pop confection "Espresso" climbed one spot from No. 6 to No. 5. And right behind her, there's still another indication that 2024 will indeed be the Summer of Country: Zach Bryan's weeper "Pink Skies" makes its chart debut at No. 6.

This week also marks the annual return of (yet) another Billboard chart: Songs of the Summer, which the magazine introduced in 2010. This chart looks at songs' cumulative performance throughout the summer (which Billboard begins with this week’s chart and ends the week of Labor Day). This early in the season, this chart is a snooze -- all 20 positions are an exact replica of the top 20 spaces on the Billboard 100 chart -- but it will be worth keeping an eye on in the months to come.

TOP ALBUMS

In news that is most likely a surprise to no one, Taylor Swift's The Tortured Poets Department is spending a sixth week in the No. 1 slot on the Billboard 200 albums chart. What may be slightly more startling information: following a bump after she released many deluxe and special issues of Tortured Poets, Swift is starting to experience a downturn in sales and streaming — and she’s not the only one.

Last week, Swift moved (to borrow a reviled music industry term) 378,000 equivalent album units (I promise, that's the end of the jargon -- at least for now). This week, she only had 175,000 units, per Luminate, the company that compiles the data that make up the Billboard charts. That's a nearly 54% drop in just seven days -- and many psychic worlds away from the first week of Tortured Poets, when Swift earned 2.61 million equivalent album sales a mere month and a half ago.

But Swift may not the only artist starting to sing the summertime blues. Although Bilie Eilish's album Hit Me Hard and Soft is right behind Swift in the No. 2 spot for a second week in a row, she too has experienced a big drop with 145,000 units, down from last week's 339,000 -- which was a career high for Eilish.

While we’re not at the doldrums of the early 2010s, this is a trend to watch.

WORTH NOTING

One of the not-so-hidden industry secrets of the Billboard 200 chart is that generally, a rather bountiful proportion of its membership is comprised of so-called "catalog" titles: albums that have been commercially available for at least 18 months and sometimes for far, far longer than that.

This week's chart is a textbook case in point: By my cursory estimate, about 57% of this week's entries are deep catalog titles, with even more just approaching the 18-month mark. For example, Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, which was originally released in 1977, is currently at No. 31, having now racked up 583 weeks on this chart; the Bob Marley & the Wailers' perennially beloved greatest hits collection, Legend (issued in 1984), sits at No. 35, 837 weeks strong and counting. Other nearly eternally charting artists include Journey, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Eminem, Bruno Mars and Guns N' Roses.

All that is a reminder of just how hard it can be for current -- and especially emerging -- stars to break through all those longtime favorites, even at the more modest chart positions. If anyone is going to challenge Taylor Swift’s hegemony on the Billboard 200 this summer, perhaps it will be one of these elders.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Anastasia Tsioulcas
Anastasia Tsioulcas is a correspondent on NPR's Culture desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including the trial and conviction of former R&B superstar R. Kelly; backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; and gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards.