The top three reasons why Taylor Swift is the biggest pop phenomenon now

Singer Taylor Swift arrives to the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in West Hollywood, California on March 2, 2014. Conventional wisdom has it that music albums are going out of fashion. -- PHOTO: AFP
Singer Taylor Swift arrives to the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in West Hollywood, California on March 2, 2014. Conventional wisdom has it that music albums are going out of fashion. -- PHOTO: AFP

Conventional wisdom has it that music albums are going out of fashion.

Conventional wisdom is wrong when it comes to Taylor Swift, however, who not only has the fastest-selling album in the United States in a dozen years, but has also sold more physical than digital copies of her new album, 1989, according to numbers from Nielsen SoundScan.

1989 opened at the top of the Billboard 200 chart on Wednesday, with sales of 1.287 million copies. More than half of the copies sold - 647,000 - were physical albums. The other 640,000 copies were downloaded.

So why is the 24-year-old pop star such a phenomenon?

1. She is a shrewd businesswoman.

She gives her fans reasons to go to a store and get her CD. In an exclusive partnership with her, Target stores are selling a bonus version of 1989 that includes three extra songs, three songwriting voice memos from her mobile phone and an envelope of Polaroids of her album photo shoot. In an interview with National Public Radio, she says she is creating "an experience that's different than downloading the music itself".

More aggressively, she has pulled her whole catalogue from Spotify to make a statement about music streaming services. In an interview with Yahoo! Music, she says she does not agree with "perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free".

2. She knows that intimacy sells, perhaps better than sex.

She works hard to connect with her fans on social media. Charmingly, she confesses to cyberstalking fans and retweets photos of them posing with her album with the hashtag #taylurking, for example.

Vulture website writes: "She treats her fans like friends, speaks their language, plays their games - all while encouraging their documentation of her album purchase. It is social media marketing extended to the hyper teenage BFF extreme. And it's totally working."

In another interview with Vulture, she says her rapport with her fans has a "friendship element". She even calls her connection with them "a big-sister relationship".

3. She's actually a songwriter par excellence.

She might not be a gifted singer like Adele or Beyonce, but she sure has a talent for melody. Reviewing 1989, The New York Times notes how she shows off her songwriting in three phone recordings of her songs at the embryonic stage.

"I Wish You Would shows her singing without any vocal manipulation, and though the lyrics to I Know Places and Blank Space changed a bunch from this stage to the final version, it's clear that the melodies were intact, and sturdy, from the beginning," the Times writes.

Rolling Stone has called Swift a "songwriting savant with an intuitive gift for verse-chorus-bridge architecture", in the mould of Max Martin, the Swedish pop scientist who has worked with the likes of Britney Spears. When she is done with stardom, Swift "could retire to Sweden and make a fine living churning out hits for Kelly Clarkson and Katy Perry".