How Big Is Taylor Swift?


You might have heard: Taylor Swift cannot be stopped.

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.

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.

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.

Taylor Swift onstage at an Eras Tour show in New Jersey last year.

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.

Swift fans in the parking lot of MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

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.

Enraptured Beatles fans in 1964.

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.

Taylor vs. the Beatles
Hit Singles

First, there are the Beatles, who for most music fans still represent the gold standard of pop mania in modern times.

A detail of the same page, showing the Beatles in the top 5 spots.

When it comes to Billboard No. 1 singles …

… they set the benchmark.

From the early 1960s, when pop music usually came in the form of two-sided vinyl singles, until the Fab Four broke up in 1970, the band released 64 songs that landed on Billboard’s all-genre chart, known as the Hot 100.

In that time, the Beatles helped to usher in the rock ’n’ roll revolution — and the album age — by releasing more than a dozen LPs.

But many of the records they set for hit singles still stand today.

Two bar charts: one for the Beatles, one for Taylor Swift. They show how many Billboard Top 10 hits each act earned over the course of their respective careers. Bobblehead images of the Beatles and of Taylor Swift appear at first above each chart.

Let’s look at how Swift’s Top 10 hits compare to the Beatles’ over the course of their careers, starting with the year each of them released their first original single in the U.S.

The Beatles’ timeline spans from 1963 through 1970, with 11 hits in ‘64 and a decline down to just two in 1970. Taylor’s timeline spans from 2006 to 2024, first showing two hits in 2008 and a more gradual incline to 10 hits in 2022, nine in 2023 and 10 in 2024.

What is incredible to remember is that almost all of the Beatles’ success — and their entire artistic output — happened very quickly.

The first eight years of the charts are highlighted.

Of the band’s 35 total Top 10 hits, 32 of them arrived in just eight years. (Three more Top 10s came after the band split.)

The Beatles came in hot, then they were gone — a risk for groups, with their various egos and complications, that Swift will never have to face.

The highlight is removed.

Her career, on the other hand, has been a much slower burn, as she grew from country music ingénue to full-bore pop star.

Swift’s first Top 10 song (“Change”) didn’t hit until around her second album, “Fearless,” in 2008.

When we focus on No. 1s, the Beatles really dominate, with more chart-toppers than any other artist, a record they’ve held since 1965.

Of the top 10s, number ones are now highlighted in orange. The Beatles show 20 number one hits throughout their entire short career, while Swift shows 12 number ones, in mid and late career, despite having many more top hits overall.

Out of the Beatles’ 20 No. 1s, the majority also came quickly, with 11 songs, including “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Love Me Do” and “Yesterday,” topping the chart in 1964 and 1965, their earliest years as a fresh-faced phenomenon.

The first three years of both charts are highlighted, showing lots of top hits and number ones for Beatles and just two top 10s for Swift.

Swift’s first chart-topper, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” in 2012, needed a more dramatic twist.

Seven years into her career, she left behind her Nashville sound and collaborated with the pop guru Max Martin, who trails only John Lennon and Paul McCartney with 25 career No. 1s as a songwriter.

The bulk of Swift’s singles success has come even later, with seven of her 12 total No. 1s, including “Fortnight,” “Cruel Summer” and “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version),” arriving in the last five years, as her career entered its teens.

The last five years of both charts are highlighted. The Beatles have had no activity for many years at this point, while Taylor Swift shows a clear peak in popularity via top hits.

By that point in their musical lives, the individual Beatles were well into their various solo endeavors, with McCartney experimenting with new wave and George Harrison writing songs about race cars.

But as with any comparison across eras, there must be footnotes and asterisks. When we look at Top 10s from the 1960s, we’re only counting an artist’s actual “singles” — songs released for purchase outside of a full album.

After 1998, the rules began changing to include any song on the radio, regardless of how it was released, and eventually counting digital downloads and streams. By today’s rules, the Beatles would have even more hits than Billboard’s official count.

Swift, whose new album features 31 songs, each of which hit the Hot 100, has dominated with these new metrics: In 2022, she became the first artist to occupy the entire Top 10 on the Hot 100 at once following the release of “Midnights.”

She repeated and expanded upon that feat last month with songs from “The Tortured Poets Department,” which filled the top 14 spots on the singles chart.

This might measure a different kind of fervor than the musical ubiquity of the Beatles or others who ruled the radio later — a depth of obsession for Swift’s fans who stream her music billions of times and purchase it in multiple formats.

The length of Swift’s career has allowed her into the Beatles’ vaunted ballpark by giving her the chance to evolve her sound, grow her loyal audience and take full advantage of technological advances.

Yet as wild as it is for the Beatles to have accomplished so much in so little time, Swift’s longevity might be considered equally impressive in pop music, which often overvalues the new and — especially among female artists — the young.

Taylor vs. Michael Jackson
Album Sales

Despite Swift’s streaming success — and ability to move even vinyl records — the high bar can only be Michael Jackson when it comes to album sales.

Like the Beatles, Jackson reached heights pop had never seen, changing the very nature of stardom, for better and worse, by kicking off the MTV video age and ruling popular culture amid tabloid mayhem.

Unlike the Beatles’, Jackson’s career was relatively long, from his time as a child star in the Jackson 5 until his death in 2009 at 50.

A grid of 10 Michael Jackson albums covers transitions into charts depicting Michael Jackson’s and Taylor Swift’s album sales.

But the meat of Jackson’s solo career lasted from 1972 through 2001, during which he put out 10 albums and followed a fairly typical arc for a pop career …

Jackson’s “Off the Wall” album is brought to focus. Jackson stands against a brick wall wearing a tuxedo; he has a wide smile.

… the release of starter albums like “Got to Be There” and “Ben” in the early 1970s, then a big breakthrough — “Off the Wall” in 1979 — and a peak, before Jackson slowed down somewhat, at least commercially.

That peak just happened to be “Thriller” — arguably the peak of all pop peaks — which came out in 1982, when Jackson was 24.

Jackson’s “Thriller” album is highlighted. Jackson wears a white suit and is lounging on the floor, looking relaxed.

For albums, going platinum — or selling one million copies — is the go-to stat. Let’s look at Jackson’s platinum albums vs. Swift’s, starting with the beginning of their careers as solo artists.

Two charts are side-by-side, indicated by bobblehead images of Jackson and Swift. The charts show platinum certifications for both, sequential by album. There is one bar for Micheal Jackson that towers higher than any other on either chart.

In the four-plus decades since “Thriller” was released, it has been certified 34 times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, making it one of the most successful albums of all time.

The towering bar, representing the platinum certifications for “Thriller,” is highlighted in orange.

Swift’s biggest albums so far are “Fearless,” which is officially 10 times platinum, and “1989,” at nine times platinum.

Swift’s second and fifth bars are highlighted — ”Fearless” and “1989,” respectively.

However, Swift’s platinum certifications are not totally up to date and do not yet count the sales of her redone “Taylor’s Version” releases, which have not been officially tallied by the R.I.A.A.

(It’s also worth noting that an album “sale” now means something different: a set amount of song streams or downloads is considered the equivalent of one album sold.)

Using the more recent sales data available for Swift’s albums, which can help us estimate where her R.I.A.A. certifications will be when they’re updated …

While Jackson’s chart remains the same, Swift’s chart has a subtle transition. It now shows album sales figures rather than platinum certifications. Chart bars extend higher, showing a higher level of success for all of Swift’s albums.

… she starts to approach — and even pass — Jackson’s monster platinum totals, giving us a better idea of how Swift will stack up to Jackson long term. Remember, Swift’s albums have about 30 years less of collective sales when compared to “Thriller” — and they’re still being actively promoted.

Swift’s “1989” — also released when she was 24 — may be the closest thing she has to Jackson’s biggest blockbuster …

Swift’s fifth album, “1989,” is highlighted in orange. It does not quite hit the line indicating 15 million sales.

… and she’s been strategic enough to release it twice, elongating what could be considered her career peak by stretching it across two distinct eras nearly a decade apart.

“1989 (Taylor’s version)” is highlighted orange, reaching around 3 to 4 million in sales.

Part of Swift’s genius as she’s run up the stats these last few years — releasing nearly 200 songs since the pandemic — is that the music that first made her a star in the mid-to-late 2000s is exploding again alongside her latest hits, giving new fans a fresh entry point.

Already, Swift has released more solo albums than Jackson ever did, and with her productivity — including those two different versions of four of her albums so far — she can approach the King of Pop.

In all, Jackson’s 10 solo albums have been certified 72 times platinum. Swift’s 11 original albums have been certified 50 times platinum. But her album sales tell us that number, including Taylor’s Versions, is likely to be closer to 90. And she is very much still going, with “The Tortured Poets Department” already topping three million in about a month.

Taylor vs. Britney Spears
A Pop-Star Arc

Swift’s extended peak becomes even more of a standout when compared to a more typical pop trajectory — even one with towering highs.

Like Swift, Britney Spears released her debut single at age 16 and came to absolutely dominate the cultural conversation (sometimes in ways that discounted her music in favor of her love life).

Commercially huge in its moment, Spears’s music career was also relatively short-lived, which tends to be the case more often than not, especially for singers who are known as performers and celebrities more than quote-unquote serious artists.

Swift, unlike Spears, has been firm in branding herself as a songwriter from the beginning, helping stave off some sexist criticism of her music as frivolous.

Two side-by-side charts depict album sales for Britney Spears and Taylor Swift. Bobblehead images of each popstar appear at first above each respective chart.

For reasons that became more complicated as time went on, Spears’s career sloped downward commercially basically from the moment it began, if you’re looking at album sales.

Each studio album is represented by one bar on the respective artist’s chart. Spears’s chart is notably shorter, with only nine albums, while Swift’s chart shows 15 albums released. Spears’s chart shows a steep decline after her first album, which surpasses 10 million sales.

… Baby One More Time,” Spears’s 1999 debut, sold impressively. It’s certified platinum more times than, say, “Abbey Road” …

Spears’s first album, “…Baby One More Time,” is highlighted in orange.

… but it’s not quite “1989” even in raw numbers, leaving aside any questions of authorship, artistic merit and staying power.

Swift’s fifth album, “1989,” is highlighted in orange. It does not quite hit the line representing 15 million in sales.

The diminishing returns of Spears’s subsequent releases represent a sadly common path for the kind of pop singers that audiences can treat as disposable, with a new model always on the horizon.

Taylor vs. Madonna
Era After Era

Madonna’s ability to reinvent — to persist as a woman in pop — is the reason we talk about artist “eras” to begin with. Another path-breaking solo pop singer with a huge peak, a long run of domination, a savvy command of marketing and unexpected longevity, Madonna has had a career that is 43 years long and counting.

From her breakthrough second album, “Like a Virgin,” released in 1984, when she was 26, through “Bedtime Stories” in 1994, Madonna was inescapable, pushing the boundaries of visual and sonic reinvention that are now considered prerequisites for top acts.

Two charts show Billboard top hits for Madonna and Swift, over the course of their respective careers. The charts are first indicated by bobblehead images of each pop star.

Let’s look at Madonna’s Top 10 Billboard hits compared to Swift’s, which shows how consistent both artists have been over extended periods of time — but also when in their careers each was most in the mix.

Both Madonna and Swift have many top hits. Madonna’s peak, however, comes early, hovering around four top hits towards the beginning of her career. She shows a decline, her timeline ending in 2012 with just a few lone hits every few years. Swift’s chart, on the other hand, is comparable to Madonna’s in her early career but shows a sharp increase in top hits in her late career, reaching 10 top hits in 2022, nine in 2023 and 10 in 2024.

Madonna scored No. 1 hits across three decades, beginning with the title track from “Like a Virgin” in 1984.

No. 1s are highlighted in orange on both charts. Both show 12 No. 1s total, but Madonna’s fall in the early-mid career range while Swift’s fall predominantly in mid-late career range.

In her first 10 years dominating the charts, Madonna had 10 No. 1s, ruling radio, MTV and nightclubs. She also appeared in blockbuster movies like “Dick Tracy” and “Evita,” expanding her cultural omnipresence.

Career years three through 12 are highlighted on both charts.

Madonna’s peak was fueled in part by the kind of polarizing, shock-value controversy — think “Like a Virgin,” “Like a Prayer” or the “Sex” book from 1992 — that Swift has studiously avoided. (Although she, too, has had her share of extra-musical headlines, like the Kanye West V.M.A.s moment in 2009.)

But it was Madonna’s multifaceted fame as a triple threat that helped lead to many of her No. 1 hits, including “Vogue” (from “I’m Breathless,” the “Dick Tracy” soundtrack album) and …

A cut-out image of Madonna appears over her chart. She is wearing a microphone headset and is flexing both arms powerfully. Attention is drawn to her No. 1, “Vogue,” shown on the chart in 1990.

… “This Used to Be My Playground (the theme from “A League of Their Own”).

A new image of Madonna replaces the last one. Now she is smiling, in pigtails. An arrow draws attention to “This Used to Be My Playground,” depicted on the chart in 1992.

Swift has also dipped a toe into Hollywood, although her roles in “Valentine’s Day,” “Cats” and David O. Russell’s “Amsterdam” are less fondly remembered (and have resulted in no hit songs).

A cut-out image of Swift appears now, too, in costume for the movie “Cats,” with cat ears, whiskers and all.

The most recent of Madonna’s 12 No. 1 hits (“Music,” from 2000) came 19 years into her career — where Swift is now — at the age of 42.

Taylor Swift’s image is faded out. Madonna’s image is replaced with one from the early ‘00s. Attention is drawn to her number one song “Music.”

Madonna’s eight-year comeback period, from “Ray of Light” in 1998 to “Confessions on a Dance Floor” in 2005, resulted in six Top 10 hits. She has 38 overall (with none since 2012), compared to Swift’s 59 so far.

Years 1998-2005 for Madonna are highlighted. The corresponding career years for Swift are also highlighted, beginning with 2022 and ending with an unlabeled future year.

Taylor vs. the Veterans
Touring and Awards

Alongside a pop survivor like Madonna, now 65, acts like Elton John, 77, and Bruce Springsteen, 74, are an interesting comparison point for Swift because of their productivity, longevity and critical acclaim — all of which has paid off on the road.

(See also: Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, who are not included here, but would be interesting points of comparison using slightly different metrics.)

While Madonna has slipped on the charts — none of her most recent four albums has gone platinum — she remains a major live draw, a standard give-and-take for a top-tier legacy act.

John and Springsteen, both veterans about 50 years into their careers, also had periods of commercial dominance beginning in the 1970s with albums like “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” (released when John was 26, that pop-star sweet spot) and “Born to Run” (from when Springsteen was 25).

But as they settled into pop-star middle age, plateauing commercially, they too have persisted with uber-successful, long-running tours fueled by fan allegiance and critical acclaim.

A table shows gross revenues for the top tour of each artist. It begins with approximate total gross figures, then transitions into approximate gross per show in the respective tours.

Let’s look at the total grosses for the best-selling tours by John and Springsteen, which put them in the company of more commercially dominant artists like Swift, Madonna and Jackson.

Approximate total gross for each top tour is as follows: Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour (through mid-Nov. 2023) is $1.04 billion. Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour (2018-2023) is $939 million. Madonna’s Sticky & Sweet Tour (2008-2009) is $585 million. Bruce Springsteen’s Springsteen and the E Street Band Tour (2023) is $379 million. Michael Jackson’s History World Tour (1996-7) is $310 million. Drake’s It’s All a Blur Tour (through mid-Nov. 2023) is $185 million. All figures are in 2023-24 dollars.

John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, a late-career greatest hits show named for his biggest album, made nearly $1 billion in part because it lasted for six years and more than 300 dates.

Madonna’s best-selling tour was Sticky & Sweet, from 2008 and 2009. (Like Swift’s Eras Tour, Madonna’s recent Celebration Tour highlighted all the periods of her four-decade career, although it was less profitable and played arenas rather than stadiums.)

If you look at how much these major tours made per show, the list changes.

The table changes to now show approximate gross per show. Values are as follows, for the same tour names as listed prior. Taylor Swift: $17.3 million. Beyoncé: $10.4 million. Madonna: $6.9 million. Bruce Springsteen: $5.7 million. Drake: $4.3 million. Michael Jackson: $3.7 million. Elton John:$ 2.9 million. All figures are in 2023-24 dollars.

This is where Swift shines, taking in more than $17 million per concert. By the time it’s over, the Eras Tour could bring in over $2 billion in ticket sales.

One notable aspect of Swift’s career so far is that it seems to bridge the gap between two kinds of artists, both of which can become legacy acts with strong enough catalogs and fan bases: the sustained, hit-making entertainers who may be overlooked, at least at first, as musicians, and the serious singer-songwriters who tend to be more critically lauded.

The Grammy Awards, love them or hate them, are voted on by other musicians and provide a proxy stat for prestige and overall acclaim in the moment.

A table shows total Grammy nominations by artist. It transitions to also show Grammy wins and top category wins.

Let’s look at Grammy nominations among the crop of top artists we’re considering.

Grammy nomination values are as follows. Beyoncé: 88. Drake: 55. Taylor Swift: 52. Bruce Springsteen: 51. Michael Jackson: 35. Elton John: 35. Beatles: 23. Madonna: 28. Britney Spears: 8.

While Swift has already outpaced Jackson and Springsteen, it’s Beyoncé — another artist who has changed the way we talk about pop stars — who has the most nominations ever.

Looking at Grammy wins

Grammy wins values are as follows. Beyoncé: 32. Bruce Springsteen: 20. Taylor Swift: 14. Michael Jackson: 13. Beatles: 7. Drake: 5. Elton John: 5. Britney Spears: 1.

… we see artists like John and Drake, another modern juggernaut, drop on this list, having converted fewer of their nominations to victories compared with, say, Jackson and Springsteen.

Springsteen has won 20 Grammys across the decades, from his first for “Dancing in the Dark” in 1985 to his most recent, in 2010, for “Working on a Dream.”

Beyoncé is the winningest musician ever at the Grammys, where she has been awarded 32 times, topping the conductor Georg Solti (31) and the producer Quincy Jones (28), who was behind Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Yet Beyoncé has still never taken album of the year — where Swift has four trophies — and has won only once in the top categories, which include record, song and album of the year, plus best new artist.

Grammy top category wins values are as follows. Taylor Swift: 4. Michael Jackson: 3. Beatles: 2. Beyoncé: 1. Bruce Springsteen: 1. Madonna: 0. Elton John: 0. Drake: 0. Britney Spears: 0.

It’s been more than a decade since Beyoncé earned a top-tier Grammy, when “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” was awarded song of the year.

Madonna didn’t win her first Grammy until 1992 (for best music video!) and only has scattered victories since, indicating she may have been viewed by her industry peers as more of a commercial force than a musician’s musician.

It is worth pointing out that the Beatles won just four Grammys while active, including two in the big four categories, out of 20 nominations, demonstrating how hard it is to quantify musical quality and how esteem tends to shift over time. (Three more nominations and wins came after they broke up.)

The band took the top prize just once — for “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” the first rock album to win, in 1968 — in part because the Grammys, until the late 1960s, were quite conservative, often recognizing old-school, traditional pop acts like Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand. (“Help!” and “Revolver” both lost to Sinatra.)

Looking at stats like that, you could argue that the most popular musicians are taken more seriously as artists now than ever before, in no small part because of acts like the Beatles, Jackson and Madonna.

Taylor vs. Beyoncé and Drake
Modern Heavyweights

While Swift’s overall pound-for-pound standing in each of the categories we’ve looked at puts her in rare historical company, it is notable that two of her most immediate contemporaries — Beyoncé, 42, and Drake, 37 — are also legitimate challengers across the board.

All three artists have maneuvered the industry transition between CDs, downloads and streaming to become defining modern superstars while also maximizing those intangibles like cultural reach and celebrity domination.

Beyoncé, now 23 years into a solo career after her time with the group Destiny’s Child, stands with Swift when it comes to versatility and longevity, plus sustained commercial dominance.

Two side-by-side charts depict album sales for Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, respectively. Bobblehead images of each star appear at first above each chart.

Let’s look at their album sales as solo artists side by side.

Each studio album is represented by one bar on the chart. Beyoncé’s chart is notably shorter, with only eight albums, while Swift’s chart shows 15 albums released. Beyoncé’s highest-selling album is just under 10 million in sales, while Swift’s highest selling album is around 14 million in sales.

Beyoncé’s commercial peak (so far) came with “I Am… Sasha Fierce,” released in 2008, when she was 27. That album has sold more than nine million copies.

Beyoncé’s third album, “I Am … Sasha Fierce” is highlighted in orange. It is the highest-selling album.

Since then, while selling fewer records, she has focused on different pillars of legacy, pioneering the visual album format (“Beyoncé,” “Lemonade”), experimenting with genre (“Renaissance,” “Cowboy Carter”) and pushing the limits of an extravagant live spectacle (Coachella, the Renaissance World Tour).

The bars representing Beyoncé’s last five albums are highlighted in orange.

Both Beyoncé and Swift have had big-selling No. 1 albums this year, during fresh periods of productivity.

Both Beyoncé’s and Swift’s most recent albums are highlighted in orange. Swift’s album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” shows about three times as many sales as Beyoncé’s album, “Cowboy Carter.” Both are under 4 million in sales.

Like Madonna and Swift, Beyoncé has continued to stretch the limits of what a woman’s pop career can hold, landing two chart-topping singles in her 40s (with “Break My Soul,” in 2022, and again earlier this year, with the country-influenced “Texas Hold ’Em”).

She has also performed twice at the Super Bowl — something Swift has yet to do — a stage where acts like Madonna, Jackson and Springsteen have solidified their unquantifiable grasp on culture.

And then there is Drake, a relentless hitmaker. Like Swift, Drake has optimized his output to take advantage of the way streaming has reshaped the industry and its accolades to set new records, including 328 total entries on the Hot 100.

Swift, with 232, is the only other artist with at least 200.

Two bar charts: one for Drake, one for Taylor Swift. They show how many Billboard Top 10 hits each artist earned over the course of their respective careers. Bobblehead images of Drake and Swift appear at first above each chart.

Drake has 78 Top 10 hits so far in his career …

Both charts show a considerable number of hits. Drake’s timeline spans from 2007-2024, while Swift’s spans almost identically at 2006-2024. Both show growth over the course of their careers, though Drake shows higher peak numbers and moderately earlier career success.

… and 13 No. 1s stemming from a variety of projects: official albums, less official mixtapes, streaming-only “playlists,” one-off singles, collaborative albums and more.

No. 1s are highlighted in orange. Drake has 13 No. 1s, while Swift has 12.

As a rapper and frequent guest artist, Drake, unlike Swift, has appeared on many hits by others

Songs in which Drake was a featured artist are indicated. Among Drake’s top hits, he is a featured artist in 20 of them, including three number ones.

… like his first No. 1, on Rihanna’s “What’s My Name?” in 2010, accounting for a wide reach beyond his own releases.

Yet somehow Drake and Swift have never released a song together, despite sharing a certain canniness and expressing mutual appreciation for one another.

Even in his recent battle with Kendrick Lamar, Drake made clear that he sees Swift as his only real contemporary competition. (He has also rapped about having “more slaps than the Beatles” and frequently invokes Jackson’s success as a touchstone.)

Drake, Beyoncé and Swift all have this modern characteristic in common: They’re each actively playing for legacy, one eye on history and another on the record books. Ambitious and autonomous, they’re proudly writing their résumés in real time, juicing Billboard numbers and even gunning for accolades.

As a shrewd student of music and fame, Swift may know that she will never achieve the exact kind of domination that the Beatles, Jackson and Madonna had at the height of global monoculture, when everyone might pay attention to the same thing. But she’s certainly trying, taking bits and pieces from each’s career and making sure to maximize her work and reach in all the ways that weren’t available then.

She cares how she’s perceived and how she’ll be remembered when the noise fades and all that’s left are the songs — and the stats.

So far, it’s working.



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