Adele’s Special

Beat the Grammys in the ratings. And to make the comparison even more interesting, they shared the same producer, Ben Winston!

Variety shows are dead. People don’t want to sit through anything they’re not interested in. NOTHING! So if you’re producing something trying to appeal to everyone, you’re in a death spiral. Hell, Adele’s special is on a pace to eclipse the Oscar ratings! Think about that, one singer beating out a whole host of movie stars. Then again, one musician singing their own material from the heart is more powerful than any actor any day. As I’ve repeated many times previously, movies when done right are larger than life, music when done right is LIFE ITSELF!

But don’t get too excited. Adele only reached 10 million people. In a nation of 330 million. Last February’s Super Bowl reached 96.4 million viewers, and those were the worst ratings since 2007!

In other words, mass is declining. Adele is a unicorn in a field of mice. She’s bigger than everybody else, but not that big.

However, if you know your music special history, ratings are historically AWFUL! U2 had a special on Fox during the height of the band’s success that not only lost the night, but by a huge margin. So, truthfully, Adele’s ratings are a triumph.

In a completely different world.

Yes, network television has never meant less. And it skews old, especially CBS, the network that aired the special.

And all this is not to rain on Adele’s parade, but to put her and her work in context.

Dave Matthews Band and Coldplay were beneficiaries of music television airplay, they were on VH1 just before that paradigm ended, when videos became an on demand item online, and since that time almost no act has been that big, because they no longer have a platform that reaches everyone.

Adele made her bones at the very end of the CD era. She sold ten times what anybody else did when physical still meant something, now it means nothing.

Forget the “Billboard” chart, it’s completely manipulated. And sales and albums are completely meaningless today, today it’s all about streams, CONSUMPTION!

In the old days it was all about selling CDs and not worrying about whether they were listened to. Today you sell nothing and it’s all about getting people to listen to your music over and over again.

But once again, Adele bridges the gap, and she will sell physical product to oldsters who have not yet bought into streaming and hard core fans who will buy vinyl. And both of these formats are very profitable, but today they’re a poor gauge of demand.

But Adele proves that America, the world, yearns for an all-encompassing superstar. No one puts up her numbers, not Drake, not the Weeknd, NOBODY! Which has you wondering not only what makes her so unique, but why labels and marketers are not developing acts closer to her than the niches in the streaming world.

Then again, Adele started at a young age, was the beneficiary of musical education and writes and sings, with a unique, great voice, never mind having a great sense of humor that she displays in an intimate fashion.

So, where is the music education in America? Almost nonexistent. The two biggest names in music are Adele and Max Martin, who both were taught in the school system of their respective countries growing up. And they both paid their dues before emerging on the world market. They were not fourteen year old phenoms pushed by their parents and complicit marketers on a not yet pubescent public. No, the chances of your young teenager being that talented and experienced and worthy of attention are essentially nil.

Also, Adele lives outside the spotlight for years between albums, gathering experiences she can write and sing about, and isn’t interested in the brand extensions so popular amongst the Spotify Top 50.

But I’ve had enough.

Adele’s show at the Greek was one of the two best I’ve seen this century. And it was about music, not production. But this all hands-on-deck overhype has me on backlash, I feel like her new work is being pushed down my throat. And the dirty little secret is “25” was not as good as “21,” and the odds that “30” will be as memorable…

Then again, she took five plus years to make it, so maybe it’s excellent.

All I know is all the marketers, the radio stations, are complicit in jamming her. Will we care in six months?

We’ll know when we see the streaming numbers.

Now maybe the label will succeed in delivering single after single to radio, pumping streaming numbers, but without said singles, good luck.

Then again, the biggest act of the past year was Morgan Wallen, AND HE WAS BANNED FROM THE MARKETPLACE! Proving that at the end of the day it’s about the music and only the music. As for the supposed right wing support driving Wallen’s numbers…they couldn’t do the same for that Aaron Lewis track, and you haven’t heard anything about the “Let’s Go Brandon” tracks in weeks.

So in truth every act is stepping up to bat with each new project, and we’re waiting to see what they hit, what they deliver.

But the world has changed since the paradigm was set in the sixties and seventies, when loyalty to the act superseded the ups and downs of album quality. Adele benefits from this, she could sell tickets without any new music. Then again, ticket costs far outstrip what they once were. It used to be a show, now it’s an EVENT!

So Adele is an anomaly. Breaking all the rules. Pointing to a future where no one else is going. Sure, you can sing on TV, but do you have anything to SAY? And those incessant beats, sans melody, they’re not omnipresent on Adele’s albums either.

But to develop an Adele takes years, and in a music business where no one has ownership, all the execs take a short term view, they sign that which they can promote and sell RIGHT NOW, they may not have their job years down the line.

But we used to have a slew of Adeles. Acts that could sell diamond, i.e. ten million albums, and they all made different music, the business was healthy, what changed? Well, the death of the monoculture. All eyes aren’t on anything these days. But one thing’s for sure, Adele’s got the most of ’em!

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