Taylor Swift Smashes Canadian Records with 'The Tortured Poets Department'

Who could've possibly seen these streaming and sales numbers coming?

Photo: Beth Garrabrant

BY Megan LaPierrePublished May 1, 2024

In this day and age, the release of a Taylor Swift album is not only a seismic cultural event, but a lucrative one. Surprising absolutely nobody, The Tortured Poets Department has already footed the bill of being the biggest economic boom yet, with the pop star smashing up numerous streaming and sales records like Matty Healy's bike.

Per Universal Music's data, TTPD has had the biggest album debut of the streaming era in Canada. This marks both Swift's biggest Canadian debut and her 14th consecutive No. 1 album, trailing only the Beatles for the most of all time in the country.

The Tortured Poets Department was likewise the most-streamed album in a single day in Canadian history on April 19 (we at Exclaim! admittedly contributed for the sake of providing you with our hot-take reactions), as well as in a single week following its release. Opening track and lead single, "Fortnight," barely perceptibly featuring Post Malone, is similarly the most-streamed song in a single day and week in Canadian history.

But it's not just the streaming impact of the Swifties hungrily sifting through a 31-track album: TTPD's release also marked the biggest Canadian vinyl sales week in the history of Luminate Data LLC.'s Soundscan analytics, which launched in 1991. Swift's latest physical release had the biggest debut since 2015, becoming one of only two albums in the last 20 years to sell more than 150,000 units in its first week.

All of this data really speaks to the ethos of a recent (unfortunately paywalled) article published by Sinéad O'Sullivan for The New Yorker, which argues that the "normal" music criticism approach isn't working for Swift's albums anymore — even if critics didn't have to review in fear of violence or doxxing.

"The tepid music reviews often miss the fact that 'music' is something that Swift stopped selling long ago," O'Sullivan wrote, likening the pop star's "musical franchise" to the MCU because it's so inundated with layers of lore that these record-breaking numbers are put up primarily by stans expertly trained in picking up on the slightest possible reference to the artist's previous work and/or exes. They're also willing to pre-order however many odd vinyl variants and pay exorbitant Eras Tour ticket prices to further immerse themselves in the meaning-making. 

Meanwhile, casual listeners and critics listen out of curiosity — probably more about the lore surrounding the music than the music itself — and often find themselves disappointed, partaking in an experience that has come to feel more like commodity than art. Much like the manuscript, the broken records are yours now, and Swift's cashing the cheque.

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