Taylor Swift's "Red" has highest first week sales since 2002

LOS ANGELES Tue Oct 30, 2012 9:48pm EDT

Singer Taylor Swift performs on stage during ABC's 'Good Morning America' in New York, October 23, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Singer Taylor Swift performs on stage during ABC's 'Good Morning America' in New York, October 23, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Country-pop star Taylor Swift's latest album "Red" has notched up the highest first week U.S. sales figures in a decade.

According to Nielsen SoundScan figures, "Red" sold 1.2 million copies in its first week of release, giving Swift her biggest debut numbers in an already stellar career.

Swift's album, which will land at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 on Wednesday, will be the 22-year-old singer's third album to top the chart, following 2008's "Fearless" and 2010's "Speak Now."

Swift is now also the only female singer to have seen two of her albums sell more than a million copies in the United States in one week. "Speak Now" sold just over 1 million copies in the first week after its release two years ago.

"Red" surpassed industry sources forecasts of a 1.1 million debut.

The last album to sell more than "Red" was rapper Eminem's "The Eminem Show," which sold 1.3 million copies in its debut week in 2002.

Swift commands a legion of devoted fans with her raw and honest lyrics about romance and heartbreak, drawing on her own experiences, including high-profile romances with celebrities like singer John Mayer and actor Jake Gyllenhaal.

While Swift never names the subject of the songs directly, avid fans dissect her lyrics and read between the lines to find additional contexts to her songs.

"She's a lethally smart songwriter and there's this universality that speaks not just to young women but everyone who wants to find love and has felt heartbreak," Bill Werde, editorial director of Billboard, told Reuters.

"Red" shot to the top of the iTunes charts just 36 minutes after being released in the U.S. on October 22, and sold nearly 465,000 copies through Apple's iTunes alone in its opening week.

The success of "Red", which has seen her sound transition from country to mainstream pop, has been fueled by a promotional blitz as Swift embarked on a mini-tour around the world.

Album sales have also been boosted by the popularity of lead single "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," hotly touted by fans to be about ex-boyfriend Gyllenhaal, which topped the Billboard Hot 100 single chart.

Unlike many albums which have benefited from opening week discounted pricing in recent months, Swift's "Red" hasn't been sold for lower than $9.99 at any major retailer.

The full Billboard 200 album chart will be released on Wednesday.

(Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy, editing by Jill Serjeant and Sandra Maler)

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