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NEAR TRUTHS:
CONTROLLING THE NARRATIVE

MIDNIGHTS MASS AND THE LOSS LEADERS: Monte and Avery Lipman’s fabulous week as City of Hope Spirit of Life honorees is further buoyed by the triumphant arrival of Taylor Swift’s smash new album, Midnights, with its attendant bells and whistles and the star’s utter command of the media narrative—from the New York Times to the blogosphere.

But the situation became a little more complicated on 10/23 when it was revealed that Drake and 21 Savage would jointly drop a new set, Her Loss, on 10/28. According to inside sources, Drake’s release was as much of a surprise to Republic brass as it was the artist’s fans.

In any event, Taylor and camp can’t be too happy to be part of that story—they had every reason to expect several weeks of chart dominance and to control the social-media narrative.

The question now becomes: Do Taylor and her army, coming off a record-breaking first week, have a strategy to retain the #1 spot in week two against the usurper? Will there be enough physical product in the marketplace to overpower the pure-streaming number of Drake/Savage? Drake’s last set, Honestly, Nevermind (released in June of this year), opened with just north of 200k; 2021’s Certified Lover Boy did 613k its first week.

It should be a lively showdown between two stars who’ve found very different ways to rule the marketplace.

Our projection for Midnights now has it somewhere around 1.5m, which would shatter the post-bundling first-week activity record of 839k held by Adele. What’s more, Swift’s already broken global records for debuts on Spotify (with 185m global streams on Midnights' first day), Apple Music and Amazon Music.

Tay is a force of nature, a creative whirlwind and unquestionably a marketing genius. Her rollout features multiple covers, colored vinyl and countless other variations touted to the faithful. Hell, the case to hold all the vinyl editions of the album costs $75.

Tay, who could teach a master class in cultivating and maintaining an engaged (and often rabid) fan base, has continued to dominate the socials and most recently extended her reach with a deftly deployed TikTok presence. Meanwhile, a splashy stadium tour is in the offing.

Taylor has unquestionably cracked the code of the new market­place, and her merchandising acumen is extraordinary. All of this would be moot, though, if her work didn’t move fans; wherever she goes musically, it’s clear they will follow.

Though she seems to have transitioned, in large measure, from her prior status as pop hitmaker to a more exploratory, album-oriented approach, Swift remains one of the most enduring—and fascinating—artists of her generation.

NEWS FROM WAKANDA: The original Black Panther movie had a seismic impact on pop culture, and its Kendrick Lamar-led soundtrack was both a chart monster and a creative elevation of the Marvel property. Now comes word that the sequel, Black Pan­ther: Wakanda Forever (due 11/11), will boast a similar “inspired-by” album with new songs by Rihanna—one of which is said to be a big closing-credits track.

This will be the first new music from RiRi since 2016’s ANTI. Wakanda will give her an enormous platform ahead of her giant Super Bowl look early next year. If the Black Panther music is well received, can we expect more mate­rial from the artist? Is there any talk of a new full-length album? How will all of this affect a decision about mounting a major tour? Speculation abounds as to Rihanna's next moves and how much her new music will resonate.