Taylor Swift Outranks Gunna on the Charts, Setting Up a Showdown with Billie Eilish

“The Tortured Poets Department” logs a fourth week at No. 1. Next week’s competition is a battle between two stars with multiple versions of their LPs for sale.

Taylor Swift wears a glittery leotard onstage, standing and smiling while holding a microphone in one hand at her side.

Taylor Swift’s “The Tortured Poets Department” holds atop the Billboard 200 with the equivalent of 260,000 sales in the United States.Credit…Christine Olsson/TT and Agence France-Presse, via TT News Agency, via Getty Images.

Taylor Swift stays at No. 1 on Billboard’s album chart for a fourth time, easily holding off a new release by the Atlanta rapper Gunna. But next week she may face a challenge from Billie Eilish — and its result could come down to fans’ appetites for buying multiple “versions” of the stars’ albums.

“The Tortured Poets Department,” Swift’s latest studio album, holds atop the Billboard 200 with the equivalent of 260,000 sales in the United States, including 282 million streams and 41,000 copies sold as a complete package, according to Luminate, a data tracking service. Since its record-breaking opening last month, “Tortured Poets” has racked up about 3.6 million equivalent album sales.

Gunna’s “One of Wun,” released only in digital form — though Gunna’s website also sold CDs and vinyl LPs that it said would be sent to fans later this year — starts at No. 2 with the equivalent of 91,000 sales, most from its 119 million streams.

On Friday, Eilish released “Hit Me Hard and Soft,” her third LP, and the first since she won two Oscars and added two more Grammys to the seven she already had. The music industry is watching the album’s progress closely, in part to see if Eilish’s latest can end Swift’s dominance on the chart.

Most of the 31 tracks on “Tortured Poets” have begun to trickle down the daily charts of the major streaming services, while Eilish’s new songs — there are only 10 — have opened strong. For next week’s chart, the key differentiator may be both women’s releases of multiple versions of their albums, on rainbows of vinyl or in digital editions with extra goodies to goose fans’ interest.

Swift made “Tortured Poets” available in four variants across physical formats, each with an extra track; these were also sold in special editions from Swift’s website with autographs and collectibles like magnets and engraved bookmarks. Eilish, who has complained about artists’ excessive marketing of physical media — saying in a recent Billboard interview that it was “wasteful” to release “40 different vinyl packages that have a different unique thing just to get you to keep buying more” — put “Hit Me” out in eight colored vinyl variants, as well as other formats like a CD decorated with paint “splattered by Billie.” (Eilish defended her release plans by promoting an “eco-friendly” approach to manufacturing, saying her releases would use recycled materials.)

This strategy can push an album up the chart and add greatly to its sales take. But it has also led to complaints online, with each artist’s fan army accusing the other of gaming the system. That came to a head last week when, on the day that “Hit Me” was released, Swift put out three digital-only editions of her album that included “first-draft phone memo” tracks — while Eilish released a digital edition of her album that added isolated vocal tracks for each song.

Next week’s chart will reveal whose fans bought the most goods.

Also this week, Morgan Wallen’s “One Thing at a Time” holds at No. 3, while Wallen’s 2021 hit “Dangerous: The Double Album” climbs two spots to No. 5. Wallen is on a stadium tour, and also benefited from the recent release of “I Had Some Help,” his hit track with Post Malone.

“We Don’t Trust You,” a joint album by Future and Metro Boomin — which contains “Like That,” a key track in the recent Kendrick Lamar-Drake beef war — holds at No. 4.

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