Grammy winner explains why Adele is right to ask that ’30’ songs not be played randomly

Since the 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 writers of the notes included in the album carefully select and present a structured soundtrack, with tracks sequenced in such a way as to take listeners on a journey. This provides brief order to the often chaotic lives of listeners.

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

This was not a big problem when the listener had to advance the cassette to the correct place or move the turntable needle to the appropriate cut-off. But the arrival of the services of 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 his fourth album, 30, and successfully convinced the service of streaming Spotify to change its default settings and don’t shuffle the tracks on your new album.

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

What Latin Grammy Award-winning composer and Emmy Award-winning musician, who has produced over 90 albums, as well as someone who teaches music management and entrepreneurship, I know from experience the importance of album sequencing, that is, the art of organizing album tracks to convey your themes.

The creative process

Producers bear in mind that, as I say, art is humanity expressed. As such, we try to create albums that reflect personal life experiences.

And just as 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 required to create an album. Music education philosopher John Kratus exposed 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 album’s themes are discussed and set.

  • The second stage is the improvisation processes. This is when 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 engineers and audio producers, who determine the final versions of the songs that will be 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 on which media and platforms the album will appear.

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

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

First, they discuss the rationale for 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 be performed within a specific order for future concerts: delivery.

A rubric for success

Another important variable is the order of the songs on the album to suit 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 with fast tempo, loud and full of musical interaction, the listener may assume that the artist does not take into account the rhythm of the “story” and the energy levels of the album. like an everything.

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

The order of the tracks 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 in which they manifested themselves in life. real. For example, a musician could be telling an autobiographical story through songs that reflect his chronology in real life.

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, saxophonist Michael Brecker, winner of several Grammy Awards, ordered his last album, Pilgrimage, to reflect the final stages of his life while facing cancer.

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

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

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

  • Clue 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.

  • Clue 4: A strong ballad.

  • Clue 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, which traditionally would have been on the “b” side of vinyl albums, tend to be more laid back and less concerned with commercial appeal. They focus on transmitting more philosophical and poetic nuances.

  • The last track of the albumTrack 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 is not set in stone, but if readers flock to their favorite album, there is a chance that 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 themes are communicated smoothly and the artist’s vision can be understood by listening to the album from start to finish.

Reflecting on everything that goes into sequencing an album’s tracks 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 on Random Listen, listeners can lose the message as well as the carefully crafted sound journey.

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Grammy winner explains why Adele is right to ask that ’30’ songs not be played randomly