In My Life

I am a fan of music. Don’t care what the genre is; all I care about is listening to and collecting enjoyable music. In my music collection that includes MP3’s, CD’s, LP’s, 45’s, 8-Tracks, etc. that collection spans folk, rock, bluegrass, country, comedy, classical and jazz. So when a new artist like Adele comers along, I am fully prepared to listen and hopefully enjoy the music being presented. After all, hearing her sing the theme to “Skyfall” piqued my interest.

The music business, much like any other business is always attempting to attract more buyers. The so-called experts study trends, get paid a lot of money to predict success while at the same time advising their clients of possible failure in determining new areas to sell the company’s products. The easiest way for a music business company can take advantage of new trends in the business is trying to duplicate the achievement of others in their industry. Many a new, up and coming artist has been told by an array of managers and record company executives, “If you can sound like (fill in the blank), we can sign you up to our label.” It’s all about copying someone else’s’ success.

If Ford Motors for example, develops a brilliant new way to increase gas mileage on their SUV’s, you can be sure that all the other carmakers will not only endeavor to create the same mileage benefit for their prospective customers, but will develop an even better application. Imitation is indeed, the most sincere way to flatter a competitor.

In a business that has seen a marked decline in sales over the last five years; the incredible success of Adele’s new album “25” has turned the industry on its collective ears. How can it be? She’s not the prototypical ultra skinny female with inordinately large body parts that have been added to her frame through the marvels of modern science. Her music is “real” in that it is not electronically programmed by a deft music producer so as to make the performer sound better than they actually are. She sings about emotions that can be understood and even thought about as opposed to the usual dribble being produced by record companies who want their offerings to be aimed the immature emotions of a fourteen year old. She’s not a devotee of social media. It’s really a matter of substance versus glitz. And guess what, substance is winning. And by the way, Adele could easily look like the lady who lives next door to you. In actuality, Adele probably looks like some of the people living in your neighborhood.

I lived through the 60’s British invasion. My life was appreciably changed when I listened to and went to see the Beatles in concert. Their songs were different from the “moon, swoon, June, love, heartbreak” pabulum lyrics forced down our collective throats by the 50’s recording acts and their labels. The Beatles lyrics opened the door to give us substantive lyrics that we could think about wrapped around some pretty good music. Social issues, perceived government inadequacies, timely political topics all became part of our everyday lives as examined though our music.

The Beatles, Doors, Rolling Stones, CSNY, etc expanded our thought processes by defining social issues through their music. A baby boomer generation grew up with those songs. I remember full well for example, where I was when the Kent State tragedy took place and remember full well when I first heard “Ohio” written by Neil Young and recorded by CSNY. The demographic for the music business at that time was to target males and females of the baby boomer generation with music pointing to social issues framed against a psychedelic stage. Clearly, it worked as sales of music grew year after year.

So, here we are many years later and how do the music business experts explain the unprecedented success of Adele? Who, in fact listens to Adele? According to a Nielsen study, 62% of Adele’s listeners are women. Of that group, the ages of women most likely to listen and buy Adele’s music are between the ages of 25 – 44 and have at least one child. Given that demographic, one could reasonably conclude that the buyers of Adele’s music are people that appreciate the emotions experienced by another woman. Those who have raised children, juggling family and work will truly understand the relatable experiences as defined in Adele’s music. Women really like her! The sales of her albums are testament to that.

It’s seems to me that what is described as “Reality TV” should be re-titled as “Unrealistic TV.” I cannot possibly relate to the Beverly Hills Housewives, Atlanta Housewives, and Basketball Wives or that infamous family with “K” as the last initial of their sorrowful name. Adele, on the other hand is real, relatable and genuine. And maybe her success shows us that the music buying public really does prefer the substantial as opposed to the superficial.

For me, the lesson learned here is that there is no easy road to success. Copying others successes may provide a roadmap, but the bottom line is that achievement comes with presenting and following through with your own unique talent. I’m sure we will be seeing a host of new singers appear that will be “Adele look-alikes and sound-alike’s.” Considering that Adele’s last album, “21” sold 11 million copies and the current one, “25” looks like it will surpass those numbers, imitation will most undoubtedly not be far behind.

The Beatles were a phenomenon and in much the same way, Adele is a phenomenon. Both acts have yet to be duplicated and probably never will.

Peace and Happy Holidays to all.