Monday, August 21, 2017

It was my first day of school in a new town, Dallas, TX. I had recently moved from my childhood home in Tennessee, and this was my first real taste of the new environment. Coincidentally, my school’s opening day was the same as the first total solar eclipse since 1979.

Around noon, we were all given some cheap little paper sunglasses so we could go outside and watch the eclipse safely. As we went out, every single person around had nothing to talk about but the eclipse. How could we? We were about to witness something we had never seen before in our lifetimes. The camaraderie felt in this group experience was especially noticeable to me as the new kid who stuck out like a sore thumb among a sea of teenagers who had grown up together.

As we marched down the overly-lit corridors of a modern high school, I distinctly remember an assistant principal shepherding us through the building and into the courtyard. His last words to us before we finally looked to the skies set a tone that we carried with us.

“Get out there and see for yourself, you might never see it again.”

The eclipse was what it was, a strangely unforgettable sight. In the short time we spent staring at it through our paper sunglasses, I couldn’t help but obsess over how fleeting the current moment was. I did my best to soak up as much of the memory as possible, knowing that it would likely never see it again. The sense of urgency to cement the experience in my mind was visceral.

The sun and the moon’s brief alignment in orbit weren’t what made the day special. It was the unifying enthusiasm to get a glimpse of what was happening in our world, or outside of it in this case. Everyone’s mentality remained the same: “Get out there and see for yourself, you might never see it again.”

For the rest of the day, and the days that followed, all anyone talked about was the eclipse. It was an undeniable moment in time for all who experienced it.

That being said, I don’t think I’ve even thought of an eclipse of any kind since then. When it was relevant, it was the only thing relevant. That said, when was the last time you had a “remember the eclipse” conversation? Though if it were to happen again, it would immediately demand our attention.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Adele releases her first album since 2015’s 25. In an instant, the entire music industry now revolves around her orbit. At this stage in her career, Adele carries herself like the musical incarnation of Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan; dominating headlines and breaking records with ease.

Her domination isn’t an accident. Adele has shown herself to be very intentional about her career, and she does this by not showing herself. We never hear from Adele until she’s at the absolute peak of her powers. As such, all we see is her best. We’re not bogged down and distracted by controversial tweets or late-night appearances, we get music and that’s it.

Culture’s reaction to 30 is no different from her past releases. It’s the biggest album in the world, released by the biggest star in the world, on her biggest stage yet. Those labels remain fully accurate, but still temporary. Adele picks the moment she wants to capture in pop culture, and she’s yet to choose a bad time.

We haven’t seen it, but too much Adele wouldn’t be a bad thing. Too little Adele is excruciatingly perfect, and it’s where we’ve been with her since her debut.

I like to think of Adele as a self-aware solar eclipse. She can take total control of headlines at will, with a looming threat of her waiting in the wings to take control again. At any time, she can be the world’s greatest star. Yet, she ominously allows other artists to take the mantle, knowing she can return at any time to reclaim it.

The total pop culture eclipse card has been played three times now since her debut album in 2008. Her understanding that playing this card too many times lessens its value, is arguably as great a strength as her angelic voice.

Other stars that hold the total eclipse card aren’t blessed with the same awareness. Kanye West has proved to have similar abilities in media control, but misuses his power to garner notoriety rather than outright success.

On the exterior, he’s an egotistical maniac who needs to drain every last drop of attention while he still can. Those who take the extra step know that he’s among the most talented music producers to ever live. Those who don’t, are likely to groan at the mere mention of his name, and it’s his fault for it. Nobody groans at Adele. Her surface-level image and her diehard fanbase’s perception are equally perfected.

30 is just as perfect, with Adele effortlessly shifting gears from the Queen of Heartbreak (My Little Love), to mega pop star (Oh My God), to an experimental jazz crooner (All Night Parking).

Despite blending genres and touching on subjects that we haven’t heard before, the whole album sounds like what we expect from Adele. That being said, the record’s lead single, Easy On Me, feels as Adele as ever. With somber lyrics and an uber-catchy chorus, the song would be successful in any season, year, or decade.

Altogether, the twelve tracks play like the Warriors’ 24-0 streak in 2015. The artist at the helm is at her peak, and she knows it. More importantly, the listeners know it. There’s an aura about records like this and an understanding of the levity they bring.

We’re reaching the 3rd act of Adele’s fourth claiming of the pop culture throne. Soon, a tour will be announced and she’ll take her act around the world one more time. Those who haven’t been blessed with her live shows should flock to arenas to try and get a glimpse of the icon. It could be a glimpse of the icon at her apex. It could be the last glimpse we’ll have of the icon. Either way, this glimpse has been magnificent. Don’t take this time for granted.

“Get out there and see for yourself, you might never see it again.”

My album song ranking:

  1. Strangers By Nature
  2. My Little Love
  3. Easy On Me
  4. Woman Like Me
  5. Cry Your Heart Out
  6. To Be Loved
  7. All Night Parking
  8. Oh My God
  9. Love Is A Game
  10. Hold On
  11. Can I Get It
  12. I Drink Wine