A while back on this blog (entry for 29 May 2015) I meditated on whether current rumours of the death of the CD are exaggerated. I continue to think that a usb or a download link is not what a street musician is likely to want to sell to appreciative passers-by: far more emotive force attaches to a physical object of a certain size and density.
Now the CD format has received a huge and unexpected boost from … Adele Laurie Blue Atkins, the singer better known as Adele. The London-born vocalist’s third album, 25, has sold in torrents following its release on 20 November 2015, breaking all records – shifting 3.38 million units in its first three days in the US (‘Adele’s 25 Official First Week US Sales: 3.38 million’, Billboard, 28 November 2015 – http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/6777905/adele-25-sales-first-week-us) and 800 000 over the same period in the UK (‘Adele’s 25 makes UK chart history with 800 000 album sales’ – BBC News, 27 November 2014 – http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-34948022). The majority of those sales are of physical cds; the rest are downloads (32% of the UK sales and a similar proportion in the US), but Adele has refused to allow her album to be streamed online.
The musical quality of this album is undeniably very high. Adele manages a crossover appeal to both younger and older listeners by alternating disco-tinged arrangements with a more traditional vocal-and-piano approach. With sales like these and worldwide acclaim, music listeners may ask if Adele has already joined the hall of fame of the very greatest popular musicians, alongside the likes of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and the Beatles. Meanwhile, she may also be remembered as the artist who kept alive the notion of recorded music with a physical format – the voice that relaunched a million CDs.