There’s a famous quote that states “ignorance is bliss.” To that, yes. There is a beauty in discovering something for the first time; a curiosity and, when embraced with no preconceived notions, it comes less of a task to tear down and more of a joy when finding out or, in this case, listening with virgin ears. It is within this context that a 33-year-old man who loves damn near all things rhythm-and-blues, soul, romantic, love, and heartbreak, listened to Adele for the very first time in January of 2016.
Prior to November 25, 2015, Adele was someone I knew nothing about. It wasn’t in a negative way; more so, it is an indication of the music that is prevalent anywhere I reside. The radio stays on 105.7 KRNB at work, and when it is time to drive home, more R&B plays out of the speakers whether it is on the radio, or through a CD which, more often than not, is Sade, Maze, D’Angelo, and other artists who reside through a diverse sphere of R&B and soul music. When it comes to certain music from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, it’s played all day long. When it comes to anything after that, there is a lot to learn. In all seriousness, prior to November 25, Adele could have walked on the campus I work, knocked on the door and the immediate thought would have been that she was a student and tried to help advise her for classes and craft a plan for graduation.
Things changed when she sang a rendition of “Hello” with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots playing classroom instruments, which led to the Facebook post at the beginning of this blog. Once the post was published, Facebook friends came out of the woodworks, asking how is it that I had never listened to her music, lobbing accusations filled with shame and disgust. At that point, knowing nothing about Adele, it became time to listen to what the fuss was all about. My youngest sister bought all three of Adele's albums and sent them to the house. On January 9, 2016, an opportune time presented itself to get acquainted with her music through the CD player in Sade, the name of my car, from Tyler to Fort Worth and back to Tyler which, in all, encompassed about 4 hours.
As of this writing, it may be time to buy a copy of each of those albums again, because the CDs have to be worn out by the constant playing in the car. People issued many a warning about her album and content, and she’s had me all in my damn feelings from the minute 19 came through the speakers to the umpteenth time her third studio album, 25, was played. It’s incredible that someone who sings songs that are painfully relatable, and for someone who was just exposed to her music, Lord knows how others who have listened to her longer must feel.
It’s plain to see how 25 has already sold over 15 million albums worldwide (1) despite only being out since November 18, 2015. The album sold 3.38 million records in the United States in the first week of its release, the biggest first-week sales on record (2). Her previous album, 21, sold over 10 million albums from its initial release in 2011 to 2012, a time span of only 92 weeks (3). Granted, album sales don’t necessarily mean an album is great but, at the least, it garners people’s attention through dollars. However, she’s also starting a 56-city North American tour (4) in July of 2016 that’s pretty much sold out in every venue. If folks balk at using album sales as an indicator of star power, then the tour pretty much kills that noise.
Listening to her album on a CD lends context as to why she did not make her album available to stream upon initial release, insisting that music should be an event and speaking about the excitement of music coming out on release day (2). The approach to this album, in particular, clashes with what is seen on social media today: The need, the “it has to be seen to be real” approach that permeates modes of social media, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or whatever. As Lansky wrote, the recent release was written in solitude, not subject to “likes, hits, retweets” or other socially-accepted odes of approval. It was written in private and when it was ready, it was dope. For this listener, the approach is well appreciated. It allowed a chance to be open to someone new, embrace the gift presented to the world and do so with no preconceived notions. The timing was perfect and despite the negative connotations the phrase “ignorance is bliss” tends to bring, this was for the best. As Kunst (5) wrote, “a necessary part of growing up doesn’t lead to misery. As the veil of idealization falls away and the realities of life are more evident, we see miseries we never saw before, but we also see many joys.”
Image courtesy of The Sentinel.