The New Yorker‘s pop music critic Goes There:
Three women run the pop world right now. Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” Beyoncé’s “4,” and Adele’s “21” split the market into neat thirds without too much conceptual jostling. Adele’s impeccably sung collection of unperturbing soul, “21,” released in February, will almost certainly be the year’s biggest-selling album. Her career is likely to be long, because she is selling to the demographic that decides American elections: middle-aged moms who don’t know how to pirate music and will drive to Starbucks when they need to buy it. The rest of the population has Gaga and Beyoncé.
So… apart from the fierce urgency of political kabuki and newsmedia shakespearianism… who’s been denigrating your lifestyle choices today?
Wow. pretty condescending huh. was it a joke by the writer?
Anyway, the majority of the people I know who have bought Adele’s album and who are Adele fans actually bought the album becauase Adele is a great singer and the songs on “21” IMHO are pretty damn near perfect. I sincerely love all but 2 of the songs and those 2 songs, I still don’t mind hearing.
I’ve listened to both Beyonce’ and Lady Gaga’s albums and neither album holds up to Adele, and that’s why the “flash in a pan” sales of Beyonce’ “4” and Gaga’s “Born This Way” fizzles so fast.
BTW, I’m neither middle aged (I’m 34), a mother (single and fine with it) or a novice to movie “piracy” and I would never buy an album from Starbucks (I’d just download it on my Ipod)
Also, Adele has re-scheduled many of her North American tour that she had to cancel for a case of extreme laryngitis, and I am so gonna be buying my tickets, especially since they were sold out before and the new venue is much larger…and thanks for the reminder…
Huh. My white-as-wonder-bread minivan-driving 40-something mom-of-two wife has, I think, all of Lady Gaga’s stuff and Beyonce’s and has actually covered songs by both artists in concert. I’ve never even heard of Adele, and I suspect she hasn’t either. Oh, and she hates Starbucks.
When did Mark Penn get a job as the fucking New Yorker music critic?
Obviously, she is wrong. The professional left decides elections when they stay home and pout.
And really, who would drive to starbucks for an album?
Gah – I can’t see anymore because I’M BLINDED BY RAGE!
So much fail in one small paragraph. So. much. fail.
And the latest science fair winners were all young women….according to Morning Edition this am.
Adele is HUGE with college-aged kids. I know more people who have actually bought her album than any other artist’s, because it’s recognized as real music by the listener.
Huh. I’m middle-aged, but I don’t have a car, go everywhere by bike (yelling at clueless drivers while flashing my Bike Riding Pinko button), played in a thrash band, keep up with Pitchfork, and I know how the torrentz work. And I like all three of those women, but have an extra special soft spot for Adele (especially since Gaga started coasting).
It’s so much easier being Canadian, I guess.
THANK YOU!, to whichever commenter here linked to Rick Perlstein’s appreciation of Betty Ford. A lovely read.
Adele is a treasure. (Demographic note: middle-aged white father who likes lacrosse, musical theatre, role playing games and liked them better before they sold out (they can be any band).) Oh, and Starbucks is what happens when you lose your sense of smell and can no longer tell what burnt is and then market that disaster as a premium product.
HUH? I’m a guy who would never drive to the Starbucks 2 blocks from home because that overpriced shit always tastes like it is burnt.
As for the “music” the kids can keep it.
What is the “don’t know how to pirate” line supposed to mean?
Is it that Democrats don’t steal intellectual property, unlike the Republitards?
Outside of some new agey-type world music, what does Starbucks sell? Are their music departments hidden by magic?
I’ve watched Lady Gaga videos on the internet, ditto for Beyonce; decent voices and Gaga, of course, has shock value. But neither of them are artists I want to hear on a regular basis. I’ve watched Adele videos on-line and she’s very good. But I’m not buying music right now. In general, I’ve lost contact with the music world. What I’m playing at home is my old stuff and a lot of it is classical. And movie scores.
Oh, man. Crying now.
BTW, Anne L
Looking at this video, I can see how Adele got that extreme case of laryngitis. All of the performances of homegirl I’ve seen she has been belting it out like it’s nobody’s business. I saw that she had background singers for this performance, but did they even sing a note?
Except for the bile dripping from the paragraph, I think the idea that Adele has the middle-class white woman vote sewn up is pretty solid. It’s essentially the retro-soul equivalent of 90’s coffee-house pop. Soothing, soul-relaxing, spa-like. Possibly even organic. Meanwhile, Gaga’s got the white teen/tween girls, their ironic older sisters, and their gay male pals in the bag, though there is some crossover with Beyonce in all those groups. Beyonce, for her part, also has the black female audience locked up.
As a nominally straight male with a taste for experimental electronic music, they all seem a bit stale to me, but there’s no accounting for taste. As for who within these groups knows what about downloading… I ain’t gonna go there.
Well, buying music is pretty foreign to me. But as a 20-something black guy that’s more likely to drive down the street bumping some Ace Hood, I must say that Rolling in the Deep is one of the most amazing pop songs to come out in a long time.
“Her career is likely to be long, because she is selling to the demographic that decides American elections: middle-aged moms who don’t know how to pirate music and will drive to Starbucks when they need to buy it.”
Sad to say, this is true.
Exhibit A: My wife.
Except for the Starbucks part. Instead she asks me to buy it for her on Amazon.
I listen to none of them.
I embrace irrelevance!
I can’t get too upset. If you want to sell music, that is, have people give you money in exchange for recordings of your songs, you have a better chance if your music appeals to people who are more likely to pay for it and less likely to type “artistname 320 rapidshare” into google. Surely this is non controversial. Selling (i.e. getting the money) will assure you a long career.
well in connection to what is going on with Lord Rupert of the airwaves just makes me hope that this is the first domino to fall in his empire of hate but not the last. Makes me think that the Pythonesque parody of him in Fierce Creatures was perhaps even a too kind a portrayal of him.
Meh to all three of ’em, I think.
I don’t drink coffee/go to Starbucks, I’m black, female, under 40, have Adele’s 21 playing on my iPod, and I know that the New Yorker’s pop music critic is a fucking moron.
I know what Rich Lowry will be doing tonight.
Pulled over for doin’ too much of the White Man Thang while listening to “Boogie On Reggae Woman” and “Rhyme-Time People”. I made the cop laugh, so I only got off with a warning.
My mid-life crisis has a soundtrack from 1975.
On the other hand, all three are zzzzzzzzz…..
I just listened to my first Adele tune. Mr New Yorker reviewer has a bad case of the grouchy pants. She’s pretty good.
Shoot, I’m a card-carrying granny lady and even I know how to “pirate” (for want of a better term) music….not that I ever have. Surely these young moms can do it if they please or ask their 11 year-olds for instructions.
LADY GAGA RULZ!!!
Beyonce’s old and needs to retire…well past her prime…
Soothing, soul-relaxing, spa-like.
Do people still buy whole albums (CDS?) anymore?
I buy songs I like and I’ve bought songs from all three, but I do have a special place for Adele and her whole fuck you attitude.
(I’m a middle aged mom who drives a van and I had no idea Starbucks sold music. I thought they just sold crap coffee. and yeah, that was a BS article.)
This is basically the music version of “Real Americans”.
The fact that Adele doesn’t have 10s of millions of dollars behind building her “brand”, which mostly means teasing the public with “accidental” shots of her cooch, says a lot about her actual talent.
From the perch of his seventeenth year, gene108 comes down on the side of Lady Gaga, and chivvies Beyonce towards the knackers yard.
Patience, I counsel. You won’t be an insufferable young twerp forever.
+1 on tbogg’s post. My wife’s been all over me to iTunes Adele (she still hasn’t figured out how to get around the default to my iLibrary, so I still have to buy music for her).
Where the New Yorker critic swings and misses is in the assumption that, because Adele’s reached that demographic through the incessant overplaying of Rollin’ in The Deep on pop radio, her music is crap. She’s the exception that proves the general pop rule, as most critics have noted this year. Really good songs (hat tip to Dan Wilson) with some outstanding production and powerful but in many cases surprisingly restrained singing that’s at times blessedly straightforward. Adele’s twice the singer Beyonce is (just think of how outclassed she was by Jennifer Hudson in whatever movie they were in together), with wonderful phrasing, and the songs are 5 times the quality of Lady Gaga’s crap, which is subpar warmed over Madonna for a generation too young to know how much it’s ripped off.
Shorter thread: “My tastes are *NOT* middlebrow!”
Also, your favorite band sucks.
I for one only listen to Bulgarian lesbian string quartets.
Sharl @ 9…It was Elizabelle and I need to thank her also.
As I read the piece, I realize that Betty Ford would have been vilified by the Republicans today.
Give me Duffy, Beth Orton, or even early Joss Stone. I don’t get the Adele stuff. On the other hand, anything that keeps that wretched Susan Boyle on the sidelines is a good thing. Her cover of Wild Horses is monumentally awful.
Voted today in the CA-36 congressional special election. I hope Janice Hahn prevails – there were absolutely no other voters at the polling station when I got there this morning and the poll workers looked so bored. I’d hate to think that teatard Craig Huey might win because more teaparty folk trun up at the polls.
@MikeJ at 17:
There are numerous artists, including radiohead and jonathon coulton, among others, who would disagree with this assertion wrt the downloading audience. And one-hit wonders who provide the counterexample to the sales=long career equation.
If you want a long career as a pop idol, then, yeah, whtever the RIAA tells you is the path to success. But to quote a chinese revolutionary wrt all three of these artists: “it is still too early to tell.”
Dan Wilson had something to do with Adele’s music? I love that guy. Semisonic is one of my favorite underrated bands of the 90s.
And I’m a middle-aged white woman who downloads all her music from iTunes, thankyouverymuch you snooty New Yorker asshole. Seriously, when are we going to get over New York’s belief that they are the center of the fucking universe and actually stop denigrating people who don’t live in that hellhole?
Thankfully we have KEXP to listen to in Seattle, but of course we also have great coffee shops and can ignore Starbucks.
doesn’t take some kinda jet fuel genius to grab an album off bittorrent.
yes. strictly, in my case.
(ok, since i can’t edit to append these posts into one…)
i can’t not think that, every time i see her. when i hear her, i usually cringe at how fucking awful it is.
Apparently no state has a monopoly on batshit crazy. Here in California, Republican Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone has proposed creating a 51st state by gerrymandering together several of California’s most conservative counties.
Here’s the LINK
Sucks that it’s your patriotic duty to listen to Bruce Cockburn, k.d. Lang, and Kathleen Edwards, doesn’t it? ;-)
Think of the average American. Half the people in this country are dumber than that.
@tbogg: Joss Stone’s performance on Leno last night (accompanied by Dave Stewart on guitar) was quite good. No, I don’t make a habit of watching Leno, but I do scan the late-night listings each week and PVR the shows which feature musicians I like.
BD of MN
Been a fan of Adele since she did an in-studio at the best radio station in the world…
I find Gaga’s stuff overproduced, but kinda like when she’s doing the acoustic thing, either on SNL or like this BBC clip…
Both Radiohead and Coulton get paid, and both found a way to convince people to pay them instead of getting the music for free. Even if radiohead rethought that with their next release.
One hit wonders prove that your career lasts as long as you can convince people to pay you.
To be fair, Frere-Jones uses the rest of the article to paint Beyonce as a soulless careerist who aspires to become her generation’s Pat Boone, and Lady Gaga as a would-be Elton John who’s reduced to wholesale theft of outworn Madonna material because the 1970s ended before you were born, dood. Critical law requires it be established that all our music suxx, because we are not sophisticated New York-based professional music reviewers, now are we? ! ?
@MikeJ: But you said “if your music *appeals to people who are more likely to pay for it and less likely to type “artistname 320 rapidshare”* into google. ”
Coulton and Radiohead are both big among the “type artistname 320 rapidshare” demographic. That was my point. And, fwiw, most artist money comes from concerts and t-shirts, not album sales – unless you’re a very big fish, and even then it’s questionable. What was the guy who wrote about how the big labels screw artists and broke it all down? Steve Albini or someone?
I had never heard of Adele until a couple of months ago when XM radio switched over a bunch of its channels and I had to find an alternative to one they dropped. I usually listen to 70s and 80s stuff, but I love Adele. And I also have a couple of Lady Gaga songs on my iPhone. Meh on Beyonce.
I find that I’m not in tune with most critics….especially tv critics. It probably means I have no taste whatsoever.
Look, pretending that what we do is Important and Significant and Has Cultural Relevance Beyond Crass Commercialism is what music critics do. It’s how we live with ourselves.
Let them make their stupid little grandiose statements about Beyonce or whatever. It’s meaningless. Because pop music is not, at this juncture, Important nor does it have Cultural Relevance.
And if it did, I guaran-damn-tee you some dang music critic at the New Yorker wouldn’t see it.
I don’t understand why my comment was embargoed. I didn’t use any naughty words I swear.
Love Adele. But I don’t get the Gaga dissfest. She’s probably liberating for the kids who had to deal with being told that Miley and the Jonas Brothers were expressing the limits of musical expression. They’ll discover someone else and be better for passing through this phase.
Basically what I said is all music critics try to make what they do seem more important by making sweeping, grandiose statements about The Culture and all that. It’s nonsense.
@arguingwithsignposts: Radiohead and Coulton both found a way to convince people to fork over money, even though most of their audience is in the demo that tends to pay the least often. And good for them. If they didn’t find a way to get paid they might still be musicians, but it would probably only be at the weekend when they were done with their “real job” for the week.
And yes, I agree artists make too little from sales. Now the labels are trying to get most of the touring and t-shirts too from 360 deals, but that’s a different issue.
For other examples of labels screwing artists, Courtney Love’s is a classic, but also look for one from one of the guys from Too Much Joy.
But back on topic, Adele has sold 2.5M copies of 21. Gaga has sold 1.1M of Born This Way, in spite of the fact that she’s a much bigger cultural phenomenon.
That guy was Courtney Love. Messed up as she is, she nailed it with that one.
Pah. Vinyl or GTFO!
The notion that teenage girls don’t listen to Adele is even more bizarre than any of the shit that came out of John Boehner’s mouth today. She was even on Glee for gah’s sake.
Citizen_X, both Steve and Courtney wrote on the topic.
Albini: The Problem with Music
Courtney’s 2000 speech
And: My Hilarious Warner Bros. Royalty Statement by the guy from Too Much Joy
So…, am I the last one to see this piano-playing cat? This is kind of amazing.
Thanks for pointing me to that! I love that kind of stuff. He even references the classic Steve Albini post about how a band can sell 250,000 CDs for the label and end up earning $4,000 per band member–and still owing the label money. Good times.
I don’t know, anyone who uses the term, “lifestyle choices”, without the necessary enrichment of ironic – sardonics deserves a belittling.
But, yeah. Bullshit, lazy gross writing from my favorite news magazine.