When Adele dropped the video for ‘Hello’, the first single from her upcoming album 25, it broke records. So many records. The video itself broke Vevo’s benchmark for most views in 24 hours, a title previously residing with 2015’s pop queen Taylor Swift and her girl army for her video ‘Bad Blood.’ The actual single itself went straight to number one, sold over one million copies in its first week, and has gone platinum after three weeks. Not since Elton John’s tribute to Princess Diana ‘Candle In The Wind’ has a single had a bigger opening week. But that is the power of Adele.
The Internet worked itself up into such a frenzy that just the appearance of a flip phone in Adele’s video was enough to spurn a hundred articles. A flip phone? In 2015? What was the meaning of this? The fact that it was a simple decision by the director, aiming to fit with the nostalgic theme of the video, and avoid ‘advertising’ modern smart phones was enough, apparently, to be noteworthy. Thanks to this small point however, Xavier Dolan’s name has been splashed across the music press – everyone knows who directed Adele’s comeback now. Dolan’s career, talented and prodigious before but really only known to dedicated film fans, is set to rise exponentially with the extra weight Adele’s name has now lent him.
So, what can we expect of the actual album, 25? Adele has proved she’s got a formula –heart-breaking lyrics, swelling melodies and of course that big, rich, incredible voice. ‘Hello’ does nothing to challenge this, but why mess with something that’s not broken? Adele’s previous album 21 was the biggest selling album of the previous decade, and has taken it’s place in the biggest selling albums of all time. In the age of streaming music critics had all but given up on seeing album sales like the ones Adele delivered with her second album – in the music industry Adele was seen as achieving nothing short of phenomenon. And if the reaction to ‘Hello’ is anything to go, we may just see the same kind of incredible sales again. Perfectly poised to be released in time for Christmas, all signs point to 25 at least matching the records set by 21, if they don’t blow them out of the water entirely.
Adele’s already ruled herself out of headlining Glastonbury though, a shock since bookies had pinned her as a favourite for years. “The crowds are just too big – I don’t know if I could do it,” she says. As the UK’s biggest artist right now her modestly seems misplaced, but very endearing.
One issue remains then. Yes, the issue of streaming. It’s thought that Adele could possibly withhold her album from platforms like Spotify and Apple Music for the first couple of weeks after release in order to drive physical and iTunes album sales. Or, Adele could make like Swift again and pull her music from streaming entirely. Rumours are flying that Adele herself is pushing to only allow access to premium users on Spotify, although those at the top at Spotify have called this ‘categorically untrue.’ Just the fact that people are already having this debate shows the influence that Adele’s choice, whatever it may be, is sure to have. In a industry where streaming services are constantly under critique, and where Adele is one of the biggest artists of all time, any decision she does make is sure to be reflective of the streaming and music businesses as they stand today.
Or maybe there will be no controversy. Adele’s reach is so encompassing, from teenagers right through to their grandparents, that there is the possibility that even if she made her album available for streaming right away, a big enough part of her demographic would still go out and buy proper copies anyway.
One thing is for sure, however – Adele’s album is likely to have us in tears by track one, and downing our glass of red wine by at least track four. Never mind album sales, one thing we can promise is that 25 is likely to render us all emotionally vulnerable. Oh, and it’s certain that it’ll be all over the radio.