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Adele leads industry hopes – ‘Hello’ smashes records

This CD cover image released by Concord Records shows ‘Perfectamundo,’ a new release by Billy Gibbons and the BFG’s. (AP)
This CD cover image released by Concord Records shows ‘Perfectamundo,’ a new release by Billy Gibbons and the BFG’s. (AP)

NEW YORK, Nov 6, (Agencies): Adele’s long-awaited album is leading a flurry of major releases in the coming weeks that could determine whether 2015 marks a rebound for a slow-growing recorded music industry.

Two acts with ecstatic young followings, Justin Bieber and One Direction, will both put out albums on Nov 13, and more established chart-toppers Coldplay and Rihanna have hinted at releases in time for holiday shoppers.

Industry watchers expect Adele to be 2015’s crucial artist when “25,” her first album in nearly five years, goes on sale globally on Nov 20.

The album’s first song, piano ballad “Hello,” has already smashed records, making the biggest US debut for a single since “Candle in the Wind,” Elton John’s 1997 tribute to Princess Diana.

The English singer’s last album “21,” which featured heartache anthem “Someone Like You,” was the top-selling album for two consecutive years in the United States and, by a comfortable margin, the biggest album in Britain so far this century.

Adele, a rare artist with passionate fans across the age spectrum, has described “25” as a reflection on the now 27-year-old’s entrance into adulthood.

True to her anti-rock star persona, Adele is rolling out the album through no-drama television appearances including a concert to be taped at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.

The recording business, devastated by the advent of online music in the late 1990s, has stabilized in recent years, but has struggled to post net growth.

Online streaming and, on a smaller scale, vinyl have brought in new revenue but the number of blockbuster albums, traditionally a driver of the industry, has been dwindling.

Country-turned-pop sensation Taylor Swift’s “1989” was the only album released last year to go platinum in the United States, defined as selling more than one million copies — and industry watchers believe Adele may outdo her.

“I think it (Adele’s album) is certainly going to make a mark on the year, it’s going to make a mark on the fourth-quarter selling season, and I think it will make a mark on the way people look at the future of albums,” said James Donio, president of the Music Business Association, a US-based trade group.

“Granted, every artist isn’t Adele, every artist isn’t Taylor. They are exceptions, but they do underscore the fact that for the right artist at the right time, people do embrace a work of art (in) totality,” he said.

Only one album released in 2015 has gone platinum so far in the United States — Canadian rapper Drake’s mixtape “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.”

Profits

The US music industry’s profits were flat in the year’s first half, although several countries saw growth including Britain, Germany and Italy.

Adele’s return has risked overshadowing Bieber’s “Purpose,” the first album by the 21-year-old Canadian in three years during which he has drawn more attention for his personal travails than his music.

“Hello” quickly crushed a record for first-week streams set by Bieber for “What Do You Mean?”, his album’s first single that is notable for its smooth tropical-house beat.

Bieber previously sensed greater competition from One Direction, accusing the British boy band of releasing its new album on the same date to piggyback on his publicity.

One Direction has churned out an album every holiday season without fail since 2011 after the young men won fame on television contest “The X Factor.”

But the band has said it will take a hiatus after “Made in the A.M.,” its first album without founding member Zayn Malik, whose departure helped sully the group’s squeaky clean image.

Coldplay’s frontman Chris Martin said last year that the English rockers were recording an album called “A Head Full of Dreams” that would be the finale for one of the defining bands of the 2000s.

Tim McGraw, “Damn Country Music” (Big Machine)

Few veteran artists straddle contemporary and traditional country music styles as well, and as entertainingly, as Tim McGraw. On his new album, “Damn Country Music,” McGraw includes tunes George Jones would have felt comfortable performing, while others push country music into new territory.

On the traditional side, the cheating song “Don’t Make Me Feel At Home” conjures up the sort of psychological dilemma found in classic country works by singers like Johnny Paycheck. “Here Tonight,” with harmony vocals by daughter Gracie McGraw, draws on upbeat Celtic sounds with the timeless, celebratory feel of early Dixie Chicks.

Peter Case, “HWY 62” (Omnivore)

Peter Case, former frontman for the 1980s alt-rock band The Plimsouls, is an extremely seasoned soul these days. His latest solo album, “HWY 62,” is a solid release displaying his heartfelt songwriting and no frills approach to offering up his beautiful musical messages.

The album is a guitar-heavy collection of hard luck stories with Case at the helm, singing guttural tones in fine troubadour fashion.

“If I Go Crazy” would be just at home in the hands of a proper street corner busker (which Case has been), but in the hands and voice of Case, it evolves into a study of perseverance when faced with life’s dice rolls.

The best stuff comes on “Pelican Bay,” an ode to the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison in northern California, where the state’s worst of the worst got to do their time. Case sings about the loneliness of solitary confinement and the sliver of light through a narrow window that serves as the sun. It all comes off like a modern day Johnny Cash who sees value in not ignoring the many lives that exist behind bars.

Even during his ‘80s alt-rock days, Case made his songs feel weighty and worrisome, as though there were some omnipresent force forever threatening any hopes of a life in harmony. But here, with Ben Harper handling lead guitar and Case singing beautifully throughout – as on “Bluebells” for instance – even dour times can resonate with the listener.

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