Apart from the astonishing disaster that is Miley Cyrus' latest choice for concert garb, the big news lately seems to be the release of Adele's new album "25". What is it with these number titles? I can understand "1", but "25"? It's not her age, she is 27. Her previous albums were titled "19" and "21" so there must be an age reference. Yes, indeed:
According to the singer, the album's title is a reflection of her when she was 25 and the frame of mind she was in during that age.Ok, but I'm not going to start titling my albums that way. Too embarrassing! I put up the clip of the first single from the album, "Hello" a while back. Frankly, it was so boring I only listened to half of it. Another go?
Yes, in the interests of objective assessment, I made it all the way through. Now obviously, this is not aimed at my demographic. According to this Wall Street Journal article, her most devoted fans are mothers between 25 and 44:
They are mostly women and they’re more likely to work in health care than any other field. They shop at Victoria’s Secret, read parenting magazines and like taking risks. Perhaps most remarkably, they still buy albums.Ok, I get all that except the "taking risks" part--how do they know that? But she is selling to them and selling huge (from the Wikipedia article):
On November 18, Billboard reported that Columbia Records shipped 3.6 million physical copies of 25 in the United States, the largest number since NSYNC's No Strings Attached, which shipped 4.2 million units in 2000. During its first day of release 25 sold 323,000 copies in the UK, becoming the fastest selling album of the century and second fastest of all time, behind Oasis's Be Here Now, which sold 424,000 copies on its first day in 1997.She is way ahead of most classical musicians--and me for sure!--in that she has a devoted group of fans and she knows who they are.
The music is pretty ordinary to my ear--a nice emotional ballad, but that is what her fans are looking for, so good. I find that the video is too much like a cellphone commercial to my taste, but again, that seems to suit her demographic. There are a few odd things: the lip synch when she is doing a quick vocal ornament seems shoddy and poorly matched and there is a fairly high frequency that keeps popping out and giving her voice an unpleasant edge. It's around 1864.66 hz if you are interested--a high B flat.
More interesting than the music is the visual presentation of the artist herself. One of the things that I noticed about Adele in her previous outing was that she was not built like a professional dancer, something that seems almost a requirement for divas these days. She was, rather, a bit bulky. I actually thought this was a nice contrast blunting the trend to choosing singers based on their ability to dance. At last a female pop singer that is not about to start twerking on the chorus. But the new and improved Adele is almost unrecognizable. She has cheekbones!
Here is the evolution:
I'm really not trying to pick on Adele! As a friend pointed out to me, she is doing this because she can. Who knows, maybe I should do the same. I keep saying I need to lose 10 kilos. But what we are seeing here is a highly professional, very thorough, re-imaging of a rather ordinary looking chubby girl into a sleek goddess. Still with the same voice, though.
Surely part of the appeal is the whole package here. The message is "you too can be a sleek goddess with a bit of work". The song is saying something like, "I am the kind of person who feels personal relationships deeply and am willing to admit that I have made mistakes." It's all, while melodramatic and contrived, very positive and speaks directly to her fans, many of whom might stand to lose a little weight (like myself!) and could really use those cheekbones.
I guess the only problem I have with this is that I just don't see how it fits with any of the notions I have about what music is and what it should do. This is basically pop psychology set to a nice tune and soothing piano chords and a little backbeat.
There is just no way I can see doing anything like that. Which is probably an excellent reason why my leaving the pop world for the classical world was a very good choice.