“Anti-Hero” was officially become Taylor Swift’s biggest single to date by at least one metric: It’s topped the Billboard Hot 100 now for eight non-consecutive weeks. That’s one more than the seven weeks her previous leader in that ranking, “Blank Space,” managed back in 2014-15.
“What on earth — I love you guys,” Swift wrote to fans in a social media message reposting the Billboard news about her breaking her personal record at the top of the Hot 100.
She also added a postscript about SZA, the artist with whom she is sharing adjacent spaces at the top of both the album and singles charts right now. “PS — Been listening to SZA’s album nonstop. Absolutely adore her music. So much love and respect for her!” That’s an acknowledgement of an apparently friendly chart rivalry at the moment (or at least friendly between the artists, if not all fans): On the Hot 100, a SZA single is currently No. 2 to Swift’s No. 1, while their roles are reversed in the top two spots of the Billboard 200 album rankings.
In all, Swift has had nine songs reach No. 1 over the years, all of them since 2012. Besides “Anti-Hero” and “Blank Space,” she’s had chart-toppers with “Shake It Off” (four weeks at No. 1), “Look What You Made Me Do” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” (three weeks each at the top) and “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version),” “Willow,” “Cardigan” and “Bad Blood” (each enjoying a single week at No. 1).
Some of the songs that would be considered Swift’s most iconic numbers stalled short of No. 1 on the chart for one reason or another, including “Love Story,” an early smash that only made it to No. 4 despite being ultimately certified eight-times platinum. “You Belong With Me” and “I Knew You Were Trouble” both share the honor of having been stopped at No. 2 and each going seven-times platinum. “Wildest Dreams” went four-times platinum but only got to No. 5.
With the “Midnights” album, Swift flipped the script on the typical album rollout pattern and did not release any singles, or even a tease of a song, prior to the moment the full album was released in October. At the moment the album hit, it wasn’t entirely clear what, if any, smashes the album might generate, with videos for both “Bejeweled” and “Anti-Hero” arriving during release week. Even Variety‘s rave review pondered “who knows?” in speculating that “Anti-Hero” might — but also might not — become a breakout single. But what initially seemed like a self-deprecating peculiarity in Swift’s discography, with bloggers everywhere debating whether the “sexy baby” line was cringe or hilarious, quickly took off as one of the chant-along hits of the year.
One thing putting a big distance between “Anti-Hero” and other recent Swift songs is how readily radio took to it, with the tune now enjoying its fourth week at No. 1 on Billboard’s Radio Songs chart. (It also remains on top of the Digital Song Sales chart, and is at No. 5 on Streaming Songs after having previously topped that chart as well.)
The singles from her more acoustically inclined “Folklore” and “Evermore” albums may have been streaming fan favorites, and as indicated above, “Cardigan” and “Willow” both made it to No. 1, as did the re-recorded version of the somber “All Too Well” that followed, but none of those was particularly well-suited production-wise for hit radio. Swift’s and Jack Antonoff’s more electronic take with “Anti-Hero” was more in the pocket — even if, lyrically and thematically, it still counts as peculiar (and, apparently, welcomely so) in the top 40 format.
Swift and SZA have traded compliments in recent weeks, even as their respective fans have seen them as being in competition for the charts’ respective top spots. Both artists have released digital variations on their albums or singles that have boosted consumption for their releases.
Tweeted SZA on Jan. 5, “Uhh I feel silly that I even have to say this but I see supporters arguing and I hate that,” SZA tweeted. “I don’t have beef w ANYONE especially not Taylor lmao. I genuinely loved her album and the writing! Everyone’s jus tryna do their BEST as we all should. LOVE TO EVERYONE. Gn.” (This followed a tweet that “there’s 1 minute left in the tracking week thank you for STREAMING SOS and copping digitals,” a message that many took as encouragement to help her beat Swift’s numbers.)
SZA’s “SOS” is currently No. 1 on the album chart for a fifth straight week, with Swift’s “Midnights” at No. 2; the latter album spent its first five weeks on the chart at No. 1 as well. On the Hot 100, “Anti-Hero” is now followed by SZA’s “Kill Bill” at No. 2.
Originally published at variety.com