Column: Adele is in control, as she should be
Adele is an anomaly in the music industry. Returning after a hiatus of nearly six years, she released her long-awaited senior album “30” on Friday.
An album that opens with the phrase “I will carry flowers to the graveyard of my heart”, it is meant to be listened to from the first song to the last in sequence – a journey from grief to rebuilding stability. In fact, Adele asked Spotify to remove the shuffle button as the default listening tool when playing an album.
This is just one example of his immense influence on the music world as a sales superpower and virtually unmatched talent.
Her third studio album, “25,” sold 3.38 million copies in America in its first week, marking the biggest single-album sales week since Nielsen Music began tracking. weekly sales. As a perspective, Taylor Swift’s last four original studio albums – Evermore, Folklore, Lover, and Reputation – only sold a total of 3.07 million copies in America in their first few weeks.
As of January 2020, “25” and “21” had sold 9.5 million and 12 million copies, respectively, in the United States.
Artists no longer do these numbers.
Simply put, artists don’t market their albums like they used to. Album sales were once the main source of income for musicians. Historically, artists toured for the purpose of promoting album sales. Now, artists mostly rely on selling concert tickets and quickly releasing albums just so they can tour.
This mindset has also influenced the way artists conceptualize and perform their music. In her 2013 documentary “Life is just a dream,” Beyoncé said it best: “People don’t make albums anymore. They just try to sell a bunch of quick little singles, and they burn out, and they release a new one, and they burn out and they release a new one. People don’t even listen to a work anymore.
However, Adele builds timeless music on classic chord progressions, universal emotions, and virtually unmatched vocal ability. She doesn’t focus on singles or making songs that are meant to go viral on TikTok.
Instead, she builds consistently amazing song collectives, with more emphasis on the album rather than the track. She even said she wouldn’t be touring for this album – another testament to her commitment to music rather than money.
The sales used for album ranking are calculated by a combination of radio broadcast, feeds on various platforms, and outright sales of both single tracks and the album itself – both physical copies and digital.
With the rise of streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, outright sales are practically a thing of the past, aside from the reappearance of vinyl records, which overtook CDs as the top-selling physical music format last year.
RIAA, the industry standard for certification of music sales in the United States, has 150 on-demand streams for a single sale. My most listened to song on Spotify last year was “Dog Years” by Maggie Rogers. However, I only streamed this song 67 times – I didn’t even stream it enough to qualify for half a sale.
Relative engagement with the music industry hasn’t diminished at all, but the math behind the flows has dramatically diminished digital interpretations of sales.
However, Adele’s masterly deployments have historically exempted her from the commercial downfall associated with the streaming age.
Relatively speaking, Adele takes long gaps between albums: four years between “21” and “25”, six years between “25” and “30”. “21” was released in 2011 in an iTunes-dominated pre-release era. Because “21” was released before the streaming age and was successfully targeted to an unoccupied contemporary adult market, it has flourished commercially.
“25”, on the other hand, was released in 2015, a sweet spot between iTunes and the age of streaming. His solution was not to release “25” on streaming platforms for eight months, forcing eager listeners to purchase the album.
For “30”, Adele’s team chose not to exempt the album from streaming platforms like its predecessor. Rather, they placed their chips in the vinyl industry. 500,000 vinyl copies of “30” were processed in preparation for the album’s release, creating a worldwide LP shortage.
And now the world is watching: will she be able to sell a million in the first week? No album has done it since Swift’s “Reputation” in 2017.
My bet is yes. With such a large fan base and massive promotions over the past few weeks, if anyone wants to sell a million copies in today’s music arena, it’s going to be Adele. I would even dare to say that this will be the last album to sell a million copies in its first week in a very long time.
And rightly so. The album is a booming masterpiece – a fuller sound reminiscent of his freshman album “19”.
While it’s virtually impossible to pick the highlights from such a stellar album, “To Be Loved,” “Oh My God” and “I Drink Wine” are some of the best songs she has ever released ( apart from “All I Ask” of “25” – I have a soft spot for that one).
Heartbreakingly honest with quick high notes, “To Be Loved” is a throwback to Adele’s roots – nothing but a piano accompanied by a stunning voice. It’s a lyrical magnum opus detailing the lessons learned from grief and how hard it is to find peace in solitude.
“Oh My God” is a more pop sound than what we usually get from her, but a testament to her often unseen versatility. The chorus bounces and rolls in a way I’ve never heard from a mature contemporary artist like Adele.
“I drink wine” is an open and realistic reflection on the confusing parts of life and the punches. It’s a roadmap to finding calm in the storm, and it’s a midpoint highlight of the album that sums up the entirety of “30”. To close the bridge, it surrounds “Sometimes the road less traveled is the road best left behind.”
I’m definitely not leaving this album anytime soon. Showcasing her colossal vocal talent and raw lyricism, “30” made me fall in love with Adele again, like an old friend who returns every five or six years.
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