A Grammy Winner Explains Why Adele Is Right To Ask That ’30’ Songs Not Be Randomly Heard

since albums existthese have offered listeners wonder, hope, truth, and reality about the state of the human condition.

This is accomplished through a group effort. Artists, producers, composers, engineers, art designers, and album liner writers carefully select and present a structured soundtrack, with tracks sequenced in such a way as to take listeners on a journey. This provides a brief order to the often chaotic lives of the listeners.

But what happens if we listen to songs from an artist’s album at random instead of in the intended order?

This was not a big deal when the listener had to advance the cassette to the right place or move the turntable needle to the appropriate cutoff. But arrival of services streaming meant that shuffling the album track order was just a click away, or even sometimes it came like this by default.

On November 19, 2021, Adele released their fourth album, 30and successfully convinced the service of streaming Spotify to change its default settings and don’t shuffle the tracks from your new album.

I have a lot of sympathy for Adele’s position.

What Latin Grammy Award-winning songwriter and Emmy Award-winning musicianwho has produced more than 90 albums, as well as someone who teaches music management and entrepreneurshipI know from experience the importance of album sequencing, that is, the art of arranging album tracks to convey their themes.

The creative process

We producers take into account that, as I say, art is humanity expressed. As such, we try to create albums that reflect personal life experiences.

And just as the stories make sense only when you have the context of the beginning and end, listeners need to understand the momentum that gave rise to the album.

Producers also take into consideration the various stages involved in creating an album. Music education philosopher John Kratus outlined the four stages involved in his study of creative musical processes:

  • The first stage involves an exploration of the album concept. It is here that the themes of the album are discussed and established.

  • The second stage is the improvisation processes. This is when the musicians work together to create song structures, rhythms, and lyrics to convey the themes.

  • Then comes the third stage: the composition or documentation of the album. This is accomplished in the recording studio with audio engineers and producers, who determine the final versions of the songs to put on the album.

  • Finally, the fourth stage is the creative execution or delivery of the album. This takes place after the recording and involves the marketing and communication strategy to promote the album through concerts, music videos and interviews. The creative team decides which media and platforms the album will appear on.

The above process is demonstrated almost perfectly in the Beatles documentary directed by Peter Jackson, The Beatles: Get Back.

The footage reveals the four members of arguably the most influential band going through the creative process.

First, they discuss the foundation of a song: exploration. They then create the melody, harmony, and rhythm structure of the song through improvisation. Then they record the repertoire of the album: the composition. Finally, they rehearse the songs to perform in a specific order for future concerts: delivery.

A rubric for success

Another important variable is the order of the songs on the album in a way that suits various requirements.

For example, it is ordered to help balance tasting and appreciation. If the album has too many intense songs at the beginning, for example songs that are fast tempo, loud and full of musical interaction, the listener may assume that the artist is not taking into account the rhythm of the “story” and the energy levels of the album. like an everything.

A producer also wants to avoid the sound fatigue, which can happen when a listener is exhausted by an album that has too much musical intensity at the beginning. To achieve this, producers ensure that songs vary in instrumentation, harmonic progression, and dynamic levels when layered one after the other.

Track order can also influence listeners’ empathy and relationship with the artist’s vision of the album by reflecting the themes of the songs or the artist’s life stories in the order they manifested in life. real. For example, a musician might be telling an autobiographical story through songs that reflect his real-life timeline.

Bruce Springsteen spoke in his 2016 autobiography of the intentionality of the order of the songs of his album Born to Run, to give listeners the impression of a day that runs from early morning to late at night. Similarly, the saxophonist Michael Brecker, winner of several Grammy awards, ordered his latest album, Pilgrimageto reflect the final stages of his life as he battled cancer.

Different artists and genres approach albums in different ways. But there are certain categories by which the albums can be sorted. A standard example I suggest of how a 12-track album can be ordered is as follows:

  • Track 1: A hymn with a lot of energy, vitality and intensity, with rich instrumental textures.

  • track 2: A medium tempo track with less instrumental textures, lyrics. The idea is to express more vulnerability.

  • Track 3: A high-energy number with completely different instrumental textures. For example, if track 1 uses a lot of acoustic instruments, track 3 will be more digital.

  • Track 4: A strong ballad.

  • Track 5: The second most powerful song on the album, usually with a different tempo and time signature; for example, it could be a waltz or a swing-style song.

  • Tracks 6 to 11, who would traditionally have been on the b-side of vinyl albums, tend to be more relaxed and less concerned with commercial appeal. They focus on conveying more philosophical and poetic nuances.

  • The last track on the album, track 12 in this example, is generally nostalgic or not fully resolved either lyrically or musically. The goal is usually to inspire the listener to buy the next album.

This structure isn’t set in stone, but if readers flock to their favorite album, there’s a chance some of the above rules apply.

The social message of an album

Album sequencing is usually one of the final stages and takes place during what is called a “discovery session”.

During this stage, artists, producers, consultants, and publicists participate in the sequencing of the album to ensure that the album’s themes are communicated smoothly and the artist’s vision can be understood by listening to the album from start to finish.

Pondering all that goes into sequencing the tracks on an album can give music lovers a better understanding of why Adele’s request not to shuffle her album is supported by so many musicians. By clicking shuffle listening, listeners can miss the message as well as the carefully crafted sound journey.

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A Grammy Winner Explains Why Adele Is Right To Ask That ’30’ Songs Not Be Randomly Heard

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