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Adele Just Gave Us Back The Album Experience

Adele speaks, Spotify listens, album shuffles end

Amit Vaidya Nov 22, 2021

Album artwork for Adele's new record '30'

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Put this as yet another feather in Adele’s cap. Despite cries from listeners and countless musicians themselves for years, Spotify finally opted to remove the shuffle button off all album pages this past weekend. What does that mean? The tracks of the album will play in the order of the album, as it would on LPs, cassettes and CDs.

The singer tweeted “We don’t create albums with so much care and thought into our tracklisting for no reason. Our art tells a story and our stories should be listened to as we intended. Thank you Spotify for listening.” In return, the music streaming service giant simply replied “anything for you.”

Unlike her previous album 25, released six years ago in 2015, Adele’s latest album 30, released this past Friday, the same day to streaming services as available on vinyl, CD and for purchased downloads.

So many industry changes have taken place between the two album release dates, it’s become nearly impossible to debut at #1 or break any chart records without the weighted totals of streaming services added on. In essence, artists simply don’t have a choice. Case in point last month, Adele broke every Spotify record for streaming when she released the first single from 30, “Easy On Me,” besting BTS’s “Butter” – a feat she never would have accomplished had she put in restrictions with the streaming service.

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While it may not completely change the equation for listeners and most people will likely be okay to just press the button to move on to the next track if they don’t like a particular song (like we used to do on other formats), it does make me curious about the re-emergence of the album as just that, an album.

For years now we’ve seen the value of the album dissipate. Artists and labels are focused on hit singles and those first-week big numbers for said song. Albums on other hand, unless by a handful of the biggest artists on the planet, fail to sell or even have value. Most artists are lucky to have a single hit or two from an album so by the time the album releases, unless there’s another big hit there, listeners prefer to just sample and move on. The order of the songs matters less than the hidden “hit” potential of any song on the album.

While Adele speaks of artist’s creative intent, it’s a telling sign that some of the biggest albums on the cumulative album chart are not actually albums – they are compilations, greatest hit packages, deluxe/special editions of albums that have been re-released numerous times including new singles. Even with renewed interest in vinyl, the demand there is less for new releases but rather catalog discs and re-issues of classics that existed before streaming made the market into a singles market again.

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But there is hope. And Adele might just be the right or perhaps the only person to lead it. Given Spotify’s desire to appease her request, here’s hoping it is a signal for other artists and labels to actually think about the importance of an album again. While most are simply satiated by uploading their latest song or collaboration every Friday, there is a market hungry for storytelling and more than just one hit song consumption at a time.

For the lazy streamers out there, there is a shot that they’ll begin to see artists as just that again, creators of something more than just two and a half minutes of entertainment that then becomes 15 seconds of entertainment on TikTok a few hours later. And for artists, maybe they’ll be more discerning in what they release, when they release it and how it comes together to tell a story.

30 might be getting Adele the best reviews of her career, but it’s also quite possibly giving the industry the best jolt to the business it so desperately needed.

With that, thank you Adele for giving us back the album experience.

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