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With a mix of prolific artistic output and relentless business savvy, plus cultural dominance as a celebrity, Swift, 34, has created such a swell of momentum that she is probably more popular

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With a mix of prolific artistic output and relentless business savvy, plus cultural dominance as a celebrity, Swift, 34, has created such a swell of momentum that she is probably more popular

 

You might have heard: Taylor Swift cannot be stopped. At the Grammy Awards in February, she became the first artist to win album of the year for a fourth time, breaking a tie with Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon.

 

With a mix of prolific artistic output and relentless business savvy, plus cultural dominance as a celebrity, Swift, 34, has created such a swell of momentum that she is probably more popular

And earlier this month, Swift’s Eras Tour, the 152-date, billion-dollar stadium takeover that began last year, resumed abroad before it returns to the U.S. in October. In 2023, according to the data tracking service Luminate, one in every 78 songs streamed in the U.S. was by Swift. With a mix of prolific artistic output and relentless business savvy, plus cultural dominance as a celebrity, Swift, 34, has created such a swell of momentum that she is probably more popular — more omnipresent — 19 years into her professional music career than she ever has been.

That is not normal. But just how big is Taylor Swift, in terms of the all-time pop pantheon? The singer’s ongoing surge has inspired inevitable debates about how her success stacks up not only against her pop peers, like Beyoncé and Drake, but to the greats that came before them. Even Billy Joel said he could only compare this Swift moment to Beatlemania.

It may be impossible to do an exact, one-to-one comparison between Swift’s career and that of the Beatles — or Madonna, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John or your icon of choice. Besides music being personal and subjective, the nature of success (and how it is calculated) has changed drastically over time. Much of a star’s grip on the zeitgeist is also intangible — a vibe in the air, their influence moving subtly but undeniably through culture.

But the absence of a truly scientific comparison has never stopped the amusement that comes from the eternal sports and pop culture debates of our time: Jordan vs. LeBron (or Kareem, or Kobe). Brady vs. Montana (or Marino, or Mahomes). “Star Wars” vs. “Star Trek” (or Harry Potter, or the Marvel Universe).

Even without definitive conclusions, it’s impossible for certain loyalists, haters and obsessives not to wonder how giants match up using whatever evidence might be available. So with Swift’s career still peaking late into its second decade, we ran the numbers and analyzed the data, taking stock of what she has accomplished so far — and when — alongside some of the heaviest hitters in each category.

First, there are the Beatles, who for most music fans still represent the gold standard of pop mania in modern times.
Her new album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” sold 2.6 million copies in its opening week last month, earning Swift her eighth Billboard No. 1 album since 2020.

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