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This week, pessimistic record-industry observers hit a particularly Dystopian low point. “Not One Artist's Album Has Gone Platinum In 2014” was how Forbes initially framed a report on the state of the top of the U.S. charts this year.
Which is not untrue: Besides the soundtrack to Disney’s Frozen, no musician in 2014 has reach the increasingly rarefied status of platinum, where the Recording Industry Association of America certifies that an album has sold at least one-million units in the United States. So the year-by-year comparison goes, 2013 already saw five such recordings by this point in the calendar. (What’s gone unsaid: At the end of last year, post-Christmas, the entire top 10 was certified platinum.)
Given our close proximity to Dec. 31, 2014, subsequent new briefs raised the white flag on the final two months of the year. “2014 Will Be The First Year With No Platinum Records – And That's a Good Thing,” declared mic.com. “Is 2014 the year the platinum album dies?” eulogized The Guardian.
Besides a few casual acknowledgments that she has an album due out Oct. 27, most pundits have prematurely written off who will likely be pop music’s sole owner of a 2014 platinum release: Taylor Swift.
As she’d say, haters gonna hate hate hate, but a quick look at Swift’s quantitative track record points to another smashing success when 1989 is released next week.
All four of her previous albums, beginning with her self-titled debut in 2006, have gone platinum several times over. And since 2008’s Fearless, her albums have all gone platinum within the calendar year. That feat is even more impressive when you consider those albums’ similar pre-Christmas release dates: Nov. 11, 2008, Oct. 25, 2010 (Speak Now) and Oct. 22, 2012 (Red). Oct. 27, 2014, hews tightly to Swift’s tried and true formula.
Further consider the relative merits of the most oft-cited queen of the charts, Beyoncé. Her out-of-the-blue, self-titled released last December managed to secure platinum status before year-end, and has gone double-platinum to date; Swift’s Red was a triple-platinum record by the end of 2012, and is currently four-times certified.
It seems Swift receives more than her fair share of disrespect because of her target demographic, which is most certainly still teenage girls, five albums and eight years on. Just this week, the 24-year-old singer slammed critics as “sexist” in an interview with an Australian radio station, chastising them for singling out her confessional songwriting style, which often touches on love, dating and her famous ex-boyfriends.
Could there not be more credit given to the way Swift has developed a slavishly devoted fan following? It almost always begins at that late-summer ode to teenage trends, the MTV Video Music Awards, with the debut of the first single off a new album.
This year she performed the song Shake It Off to kick off the promotional machine for 1989.
Once the world spends the month of September devouring the lead single, a second one is released in October and sets social media on fire again. Now, the new album is only weeks away from dominating the sales charts. (In what could be viewed as tripling down on the record, she’ll release a third single on Tuesday for 1989.)
And getting the word out on Facebook (70.4-million likes) Twitter (45.5-million followers) and Instagram (12.2-million followers)? That’s so 2012. Swift’s marketing coup du jour is a Swiftie’s dream come true: The singer has been hosting intimate fan listening parties for 1989 in her own home. She'll also be a musical adviser to contestants on the reality TV competition The Voice, with her first episode airing on – you guessed it – Oct. 27.
As long as Taylor Swift keeps doing Taylor Swift, proclaiming that at least one artist will go platinum in 2014 isn’t so bold after all. The more pressing question is rather: Will she be double- or triple-certified this time around?