Streaming or not, Adele’s “25” expected to be monster hit

20 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Adele still mines heartbreak masterfully on ’25’.

When British singer Adele reintroduced herself last month after a four-year absence, time seemed to stand still. “Hello,” the first single from third studio album “25,” shattered records previously held by the likes of Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus. “I am so overwhelmed and grateful to be able to even put another record out, and put it out how I want,” she added, perhaps referring to how she has declined to make “25” available for streaming on services such as Spotify and Apple Music. “The last month has been a whirlwind, it’s literally taken my breath away,” she continued. “I hope you enjoy the record as much as I enjoyed making it for you.” As part of TV special Adele At The BBC, the Hello singer shows off her acting abilities as she takes on the character of “Jenny”, an Adele impersonator.Some have said Adele’s music can make you miss the lover you haven’t even met or broken up with yet, and judging by social media, lots of folks are going to need a minute.

It’s the first song to rack up more than 1 million digital sales in a single week. “Hello” is the perfect first single, capturing everything we love about Adele. Adele’s 25 hits stores, and while the album is available for purchase on CD through retailers or download through digital music merchants, it’s apparently not being made available on the leading streaming services. Nine real-life Adele impersonators were then invited to audition for a fictitious pilot programme at the Wimbledon Theatre – alongside the real Adele in disguise. Yohana Desta at Mashable writes that “The wildly anticipated third release delivers what all Adele fans want — big vocals, ballads (heartbroken and otherwise) and the classic soundscape, culled from vintage pop and soul music.” “Technically, Adele has already made this album, two times over,” Desta writes. “She’s swept us off our feet before, stirred our souls so powerfully that 25 is not collectively as game-changing as some might want it to be.” According to Billboard, Columbia Records planned to ship 3.6 million physical copies of the singer’s new album in the United States, making 25 the album with the most new-release CDs shipped in the past decade.

During the hour-long programme hosted by Graham Norton, Adele shows off the sense of humour we have missed – photo-bombing fans as they pose with her Oscar by holding up speech bubbles and running behind them wearing a moustache. Music sales have fallen off over the past few years, and no one has posted numbers like that since 2000, when *NSYNC’s No Strings Attached shipped 4.2 million units. Users are greeted with the following message when they try to listen to the record: “The artist or their representatives have decided not to release this album on Spotify just yet. It’s naturally an unfavorable development for Spotify, Apple , and any of the other premium streaming services still left standing, but it’s not as if Adele needs the digital exposure.

She talks candidly with the presenter about her voice, her anxieties and motherhood, and also performs hits old and new – from Rumour Has It to Skyfall to Hello. We’re working on it and hope we can change their minds soon.” A spokesperson for the streaming service added: “We love and respect Adele, as do her 24 million fans on Spotify.

We hope that she will give those fans the opportunity to enjoy ’25’ on Spotify alongside ’19’ and ’21’ very soon.” A few other tracks from the album have already been unveiled, including live performances of ‘When We Were Young’ (with Tobias Jesso Jr) and ‘Water Under The Bridge’. They’re the kinds of sales figures record executives probably thought they’d never see again in an era when moving tens of thousands of units can get you to No. 1. With melancholy melodies about heartbreak and massive sales, expect lots of comparisons between Adele and Swift, especially from those predicting that the British singer will topple America’s sweetheart as the darling of the music industry.

The counter to that argument is that the track still broke into the seven digits in sales despite being available on Spotify, Apple Music, and other services. The timing of 25, as the new record is titled, is even more fortuitous given that the industry’s previous savior, Taylor Swift’s 1989, has begun its inevitable commercial descent, plummeting to a scrawny 14 on this week’s Billboard 200 after selling 5.3 million copies in the U.S. alone since its release a little more than a year ago. It probably says something that this decade’s three genuinely transcendent pop stars, Adele, Swift and Beyoncé, are all women and that two of them are using their album titles to tell us how old they are. (Sort of: Swift was born in 1989 but Adele is actually 27.) At any rate, that’s a subject for another essay.

And falling out of love is my favorite way to feel as well,” she told me in 2009. “I used to feel really empty if I didn’t have a guy in my life — whether it’s just a fling or having a crush on someone. There’s only one Madonna.” Adele also denied turning down a collaboration with Beyoncé, saying: “There’s a rumour going round that I turned Beyoncé down. That crisis was averted by Apple changing its mind — deciding to pay royalties for the tunes consumed during Apple Music’s lengthy three-month trial period — but that’s obviously not the case here. It’s hard for me to make a definitive proclamation, since I’ve only had 36 hours with the album; music needs time to reveal its depths, or lack thereof.

Whether Adele’s camp feels that abstaining from participation on streaming sites will result in more actual purchases or that chasing the digital payouts aren’t worth it, this move deserves watching. But the new record’s mix of classic R&B, timelessly roof-rattling ballads, and contemporary pop is very much in keeping with its predecessor: familiar yet not too familiar, and instantly gripping because it’s all sung by that voice.

If more major artists bow out — or even hold back from making their tracks available through at least the first few months of retail availability — it could set the streaming revolution back. The throat surgery she underwent following a vocal hemorrhage in 2011 has done nothing to diminish either its character or power; brassy yet husky, smoky yet clarion, she still sounds like the result of a genetic experiment fusing Amy Winehouse’s vocal chords with Céline Dion’s lungs, or even Tom Jones’s. No one expects streaming video platforms to host all of the worthy available content, but folks also pay far more for cable and satellite television than they do for satellite radio or any other premium audio offering. There’s a glossy ’70s sweep throughout it and much of the album, adding soul to so many heartbreaking lyrics. (“Let me photograph you in this light/In case it is the last time/That we might be exactly like we were/Before we realized/We were sad of getting old.”) The Danger Mouse-produced “River Lea” has a gothic quality that evokes long coats and windswept hair.

It’s opening lines – “Everybody tells me it’s ’bout time that I move on/And I need to learn to lighten up and learn how to be young” – a clever commentary on Adele’s persona. “All I Ask” riffs elegantly on Dionne Warwick’s “I’ll Never Love This Way Again.” There is, in fact, a Burt Bacharach-esque quality to many of the songs. “I Miss You” is dark and pleading. With the help of serial collaborators, some returning, some new, she has conceived another batch of real songs, with real melodies, not just strings of hooks and naked, genuine-seeming emotions. The Ryan Tedder-produced “Remedy” harks back to debut album “19” with its spare piano and somber delivery. “Million Years Ago” is the album’s most devastating moment, a powerful and poignant ballad that’s destined to shatter hearts. Spotify now has more than 20 million premium subscribers worldwide, and Apple is up to 6.5 million paying users even though it’s been charging folks for less than two months (the service launched at the end of June, but everybody gets three free months). It starts out sounding like something off Lana Del Rey’s recent album, Honeymoon, with Adele’s voice taking on a flat affect as she sings over vaguely sinister keyboard chords: Hello, it’s me.

I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet / To go over everything / They say time is supposed to heal ya / But I haven’t done much healing Then comes the chorus: big, booming, throbbing with emotion, and instantly addictive—it’s not Lana Del Rey! But any resolution is strictly musical: Hello from the other side I must have called a thousand times To tell you I’m sorry for everything I’ve done But when I call you never seem to be home Things don’t get much jollier on the rest of the record. “River Lea” is a dark, propulsive collaboration with Danger Mouse—my favorite track, for the moment—in which Adele paints herself as a demanding, impossible-to-satisfy lover… … before asserting in the chorus that she’s not going to change, so tough. This initially struck me as odd in a record called 25 that wasn’t made by someone in her 50s; but on second thought, nostalgia is a young person’s game, at least in my experience. (Those who can still remember the past are condemned to pine for it?) The album’s second single, “When We Were Young,” was in part inspired by “The Way We Were,” and for better or worse sounds like it. (In a shocking confession, Adele told Rolling Stone the older song made her cry when Barbra Streisand reprised it at the Oscars in 2013.) I prefer the similarly backward-looking “A Million Years Ago,” which has a samba-like lilt and a seductive melody. (Adele is backed by a single acoustic guitar.) The album’s thematic centerpiece might be “All I Ask,” yet another piano ballad—Bruno Mars is a co-writer—with a churchy, rolling quality that puts me in mind of Carole King or Elton John. And I’ll go further: as a confessional blockbuster, 25 will prove a worthy successor not just to 21 but also Tapestry, Rumours, and Jagged Little Pill.

UPDATE: Since this review was first published, it has been amended to reflect the fact that Aretha Franklin has indeed covered “Rolling in the Deep”.

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