As of this writing Taylor Swift has six songs on the Hot 100 chart, with “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” in the highest slot at number 11, down from its peak at number one. She’s one of the more noticeable beneficiaries of Billboard‘s new accounting methods, which now factor in digital media alongside traditional avenues of distribution. But more crucially, with her new album, Red, Swift has completed the transformation from country superstar to pop superstar—the record even has a dubstep song.
Nashville has a complicated, occasionally fraught relationship with the pop world. Its biggest crossover success stories tend to get the cold shoulder on their home turf—Swift was the biggest red-carpet draw at last Friday’s Country Music Association Awards, for instance, but she didn’t take home any trophies. And those very crossover successes often seem to inspire country fans and musicians to flee the pop-cultural center and take up a traditionalist sound that, consciously or not, is likely to alienate outsiders. The roots-focused outlaw country movement, maybe the best thing to happen to the genre in the past 50 years, probably wouldn’t have
happened come into its own if it weren’t for the late-70s fad for pop country that made megastars out of middle-of-the-road performers like John Denver and Olivia Newton-John.
Swift’s impressive multiple appearances on the Hot 100 chart are currently outnumbered by the combined efforts of a gang of cowboy-hatted men whose hard-edged take on country music offers a corrective to her Max Martin-assisted pop takeover.