As we sit on pins and needles awaiting Star Wars 7, the force certainly awakened in the music industry last week as Adele’s third album, 25, became a worldwide sensation and the first album since the dawn of Soundscan to move more than 3 million units in a week. So, what does it all mean? Let’s roll into the deep:
1. Moms Rock
Who are some of the top selling artists of the past decade? Adele, Michael Buble, Josh Groban and Susan Boyle. Who buys their albums? Moms. Who doesn’t have time to illegally download music and is constantly shopping at Target? Your mom. Why record companies don’t focus more effort on Adult Contemporary pop music is beyond me. Which leads us to…
2. You Don’t Need to Be a Britney, Bitch.
Video Killed the Radio Star — and also killed pop stars as we knew em. Lanky, gangly, real-looking men like Ric Ocasek, Eddie Money and Billy Squier; lovely ladies like Barbra Striesand, Liza Minnelli and Carole King. Post MTV, looks were everything and 21 was considered “over the hill”. Can’t sing? No problem. We’ll fix it in post with autotune, outrageous videos and skin — lots and lots of skin — but no fatties. Adele is beautiful. She has curves, for sure, but most importantly, she has pipes. For the first time in forever, true talent wins!
3. Nice girls finish first.
Unlike the Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj, Justin Bieber and just about every TMZ-drenched pop star. Adele has never used negative publicity to build her cred or drum up interest in her art. She doesn’t get into twitter wars and she’s not dating anyone from One Direction. After selling 30 million copies of 21, she all but disappeared for a few years and made us miss her.
4. Adele keeps it real.
Why do most sophomore albums slump? Because the artist was poor and struggling to get Album #1 made. Second albums are usually rushed and the artist is now writing from a place of wealth, fame, unbelievable privilege and “yes men” eager to cash back in quick. Post 21 (hardly a sophomore slump), Adele went back to real life, raising a son and trolling around London incognito. That’s how you write real songs that connect with real people; write from reality. Which brings us to…
5. Seriously Rolling Stone?
Despite two major journalistic pot holes last year (the Virginia rape article and the Kim Kardashian
glorified press release cover story), Rolling Stone is still good for a good in-depth rock bio. Why they needed to publish a picture of Adele’s real life look is beyond me. It was like exposing Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne. Will she ever be able to live a normal life and write real music again? We’ll see.
6. Hold The Fetty Wap
The one thing gloriously missing from 25 is the word “featuring”. There is nary a guest rapper in sight. Bliss. 97% of guest raps sound like phone in, tacked on, cloying attempts at crossover appeal — I kinda wonder if most of these guest raps are brokered through stock photo agencies because that’s what they sound like. Is 3:00 too long to keep someone’s attention these days? Do we need to insert a rapper’s self-hyping commercial in the third verse?
7. So You Think You Need Dancers?
If nothing else, thinly talented pop stars keep bus loads of So You Think You Can Dance alumni employed year round. You just won’t find Adele doing one of those dreadfully repetitive “sex kitten robot” routines in her videos or on stage.
8. It’s Not All About The Bass
25 is also blissfully free of EDM touches. The bass stays undropped throughout. Hearing Prince try to get his Skrillex on (HITnRUN) was embarrassing for him, me and just about anyone over the age of 40. Sure Adele is 27, but her music thankfully is fresh, current, and doesn’t induce Pokemon type seizures in people with pacemakers.
9. “Adele” is now a Verb
That’s all you really need for an Adele album is Adele’s powerhouse vocals front and center in the mix. Over 14 glorious tracks, Adele Adele’s the living shit out of 25.
10. You Can’t Have Too Much Media Exposure
Adele was just about everywhere this week. SNL, Fallon, Today, Fallon Viral Video, another Fallon Viral Video. And perhaps most seen, the viral video from the Graham Norton Show in the UK where she goes undercover to audition with a bunch of Adele impersonators.
11. Tours de Farce
Thanks to this media tour de force, Adele doesn’t need to tour. Sure touring would bring in hundreds of millions of dollars — but why? She’s rich enough. How many houses can you own? How much nicer of a dinner or softer sheets could an extra million pounds possibly buy her? She has a kid. She has a life. Record. Promote. Sell. Take a few more years off. No touring!
12. But wait…
13. John Seabrook of The New Yorker sounds like a whiny little toddler here…
In a bizarre piece of Adele coverage, Seabrook sobs about not having free access to 25 while people who buys things get to listen to it before he can. It’s been well documented how streaming revenues pay a fraction of a penny per listen compared to album sales that pay in full upfront. He warns the industry about greedily prioritizing short term profits over long-term growth. WHAT?!? I doubt Seabrook saw the humor in the SNL “Change Bank” skit where they say the secret to their success is “volume”.
If there’s no money on the table, it doesn’t matter how long the road. And if ANYONE can afford to drop an extra $10 once in blue moon when a blockbuster album isn’t available on Spotify, it’s a writer for the freaking New Yorker. I know this guy really loves his Spotify, so here’s a way to enjoy 25 for 5 bucks or less: Buy it, rip it, re-sell it — or better yet, rip a free copy from just about any mom in your neighborhood.
14. Target Actually Did Something Right
Whoever’s behind arranging the exclusive discs at Best Buy and Target usually do a good job of securing content. I loathe the practice but am a completist and will usually pony up for the tracks if they’re not available ala carte on iTunes or Amazon. The problem most always comes down to the floor of the store. Opening day, it’s often impossible to find the exclusive items. Employees who treat music as just any other shelf commodity are clueless as to what you’re looking for. I can only guess that store buyers who have no idea who the artist is likely under-order quantities. Target exclusives by Charli XCX and Duran Duran were out of stock opening morning at most of the stores I visited, and I guess they had 5 units or fewer to begin with. For the Best Buy super edition of a 2010 Duran Duran title, it was “sold out” the moment one store opened (which led me to guess the employees kept them for themselves and eBay). If a retailer is going to do a dick move and squeeze out independent retailers with an exclusive, then STOCK THE SHIT OUT OF IT. Overflowing end caps by the CDs and by checkout. Case in point, Target was swimming in copies of their special edition of 25, which brings us to.
15. You Shoulda Bought the Target Edition
25 only has 11 tracks — Adele admits she has 5 other ones “in the works” but most likely won’t complete them until 30 comes out. The three bonus tracks on the Target edition represent what is likely to be 20% of Adele’s total output in 5 years (if you factor in the theme to Skyfall).
16. CDs aren’t extinct
Sure most people listen to music on their phones or shitty computer speakers — but for those who step up — even a bit to their car stereo — the CD and (for home listening) vinyl copies provide superior fidelity. Adele has a voice that you just shouldn’t compress.
17. Mark Ronson Got the Shaft (Again)
Duran Duran’s 2015 platter, Paper Gods, was really good. Their 2010 effort, All You Need is Now, is a classic. The difference? Mark Ronson (Uptown Funk) produced all of the latter and only a few tracks on the former. On 25, the proven hit machine is demoted to the Target bonus tracks. But it’s a good one and he’s in good company. Tracks by Linda Perry (Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera) and Ariel Rechtshaid (Madonna, Charli XCX) got ushered to the Target VIP lounge too.
18. Danger Mouse is Still a Thing
Questions about Cee-Lo still being a thing loom larger these days, but when is the last time we saw an album produced by this uber producer? He produces one track on 25 (‘River Lea’), and the royalties will likely mean he can do whatever he pleases for many more years to come. What the world needs now is a new Gnarles Barkley album!
19. Where in the world is Dan Wilson?
The Semisonic singer co-authored three tracks on the 30-million seller 21, including ‘Someone Like You’. Why Adele didn’t invite him back for a single track is beyond me.
20. My Adele Has a Last Name…
Adkins! Who knew? Well, you do now. Thanks Liner Notes. Adele Laurie Blue Adkins if you Wiki.
21. Numbered album titles sell big numbers.
Unless you’re Fiona Apple, numerically titled albums move crap loads of units: Adele (19, 21, 25), Taylor Swift (1989), Van Halen (1984), Prince (1999), Rush (2112), Led Zep (IV et.al) — need I say more?