It’s pretty incredible, but despite being arguably the country’s best-selling pop artist over the last half-decade—so much so that she’s even charted four top ten hits with songs that were never official singles—Taylor Swift has never scored a #1 single. Among her Top 40 peers, she’s matched only by Justin Bieber for the old LeBron James “greatest player without a championship”-type pop distinction, and even though it seems inevitable that she’ll get one sooner or later, the fact that neither artist has to this point shows that such chart-toppers can’t be taken for granted.
Enter “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” Taylor’s lead single from upcoming album Red, a Max Martin and Shellback-produced pop singalong about that Swiftiest of song topics, the breakup. Taylor debuted the song on her live chat last night, before releasing it to iTunes at midnight. Within 50 minutes, “Together” was on top of the charts—a land-speed record for topping iTunes—a position it still holds today and will likely for the majority of the upcoming week, at the least. Meanwhile, the song is getting mostly rave reviews, from pop and country critics alike, pop radio seems to be treating it as an event, and if the fans at the live chat are to be viewed as representative, it certainly seems to be a sure crowd-pleaser.
It seems like it could be enough to get it to the top of the Hot 100 next week. The song that Taylor beat out to be the fastest iTunes #1 in history was Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” which debuted at #1 and stayed there for another five weeks. Earlier this year, Katy Perry was similarly able to debut on top of the charts with a big song debut of her own, as “Part of Me” sold 411,000 copies in its first week of release, enough of an advantage over the second-best selling song that week to compensate for the song’s inevitably slow-building radio airplay.
Of course, Justin Bieber had an even bigger sales week for his own “Boyfriend,” selling 521k in the first week of release for the Believe lead single, the second-best debut week for any single in iTunes history. Yet that was only good enough to get “Boyfriend” to #2, as The Bieb had the extreme misfortune of running into fun. and Janelle Monae in a peak week for “We Are Young,” one of the year’s biggest singles, resulting in a runner-up placement for Bieber. Radio airplay never quite caught up with the song’s downloads, so once those started slipping, “Boyfriend” had no shot at reaching pole position on the Hot 100.
“We Are Never Getting Back Together” should be able to avoid both of those problems. No song is dominant in the pop sphere right now the way that “We Are Young” was during its “Boyfriend”-blocking—”Call Me Maybe” is still #1 for lack of a better candidate, but the song’s digital sales have been slipping for weeks, as have those for Ellie Goulding’s “Lights” and Maroon 5′s “Payphone,” the songs on top of the On-Demand and Radio Songs charts, respectively. Phillip Phillips’ “Home,” the best-selling song last week, should see a numbers dip as its Olympic exposure dies down, and doesn’t have the radio support to compete for #1 on the Hot 100 anyway.
What’s more, even if “Together” doesn’t debut at #1, it seems like a sure bet to get the radio support that Bieber lacked to make it competitive for #1 down the line. Swift has had the backing of Top 40 radio since “Love Story” cemented her crossover appeal, and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is maybe her most explicitly pop song to date, with a stomping beat, an Avril Lavigne-like singalong hook and a glossy pop sheen from Martin and Shellback, producers behind (approximately) a combined 2500 of the biggest hits of the 21st century. “Together” should be in it for the long haul.
It’s not a shoo-in for #1 just yet, but if there was one song this week likely to finally end Our Girl Carly Rae Jepsen’s nine-week run at the top, T-Swizzle’s jam would probably be the culprit. And who even knows how long that one might stay on top?