For all that New York magazine’s Jody Rosen has written, count ‘em, 6000 words about Taylor Swift for the cover story of this week’s issue, the article’s most interesting and contentious claim comes in the headline: “Why Taylor Swift Is the Biggest Pop Star in the World.” But wait, is she? You could probably make an argument about her being the biggest pop star in the US right now, but the world? It’s like calling whoever wins the NBA Finals World Champions.
Swift has certainly had a hugely successful couple of years. She’s sold a heap of records — her albumRedwas the second-biggest-selling record of 2012 in the US, behind the indestructible Adele’s21. This certainly makes her a legitimate contender for the title of biggest pop star in America, although it’s worth noting several other prominent contenders for that title — Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, in particular — didn’t release albums in 2012. Still, on record sales alone, she’s definitely big news.
But who’s buying these records? Swift has traditionally had a strong support base among country enthusiasts, and the thing about country enthusiasts is that they still buy albums, bless them. It’s fascinating to see how skewed the US charts are toward country: five of this country’s ten top-selling albums in 2012 were country. But the thing is, this audience basically doesn’t exist outside America. Of those five records, three of them are by artists who I guarantee you pretty muchno one outside the US could give the remotest semblance of a fuck about: Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean. (The other one, curiously, is by Lionel Richie.)