Grammy winner explains why Adele is right – tracks from the album shouldn’t be mixed up


Ever since the albums have been around, they have offered listeners wonder, hope, truth and reality regarding the state of the human condition.

This is achieved through a group effort. Artists, producers, songwriters, engineers, artwork designers and cover note writers carefully organize and present a structured soundtrack, with tracks sequenced in a way that takes listeners on a journey. This can bring order to the often chaotic lives of listeners.

But what if we listen to songs from a random artist’s album rather than in the intended order?

This was not much of a problem when the listener had to fast forward the tape to the right place or jump a needle to the correct groove. But the advent of streaming services meant shuffling the order of album tracks was just a click away, or sometimes even that’s the default setting.

On November 19, 2021, Adele released her fourth album, “30,” and successfully convinced audio streaming service Spotify to change their default setting so as not to randomize the tracks on their new album.

I have all the sympathy for Adèle’s position.

As a Latin Grammy Award-winning songwriter and Emmy Award-winning musician who has produced over 90 albums, as well as someone who teaches the music business and entrepreneurship, I know from experience the importance of album sequencing – that is, the art of preservation. album tracks to convey its themes.

The creative process

Producers like me take into consideration that, as I say, art is the expression of humanity. As such, we try to create albums that reflect personal life experiences.

And just as storylines only make sense when you have the context of the beginning and the end, listeners need to understand why the album was made.

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

The first step involves exploring the concept of an album. This is where the album’s themes are discussed and established.

The second step is the improvisation process. This is when musicians work together to create song structures, grooves and lyrics to convey the themes.

Then comes the third step: the composition or documentation of the album. This is done in the recording studio with sound engineers and producers, who determine the final versions of the songs that will be put on the album.

Finally, the fourth step is the creative performance or delivery of an album. This takes place after 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 almost perfectly demonstrated in Peter Jackson’s new Beatles documentary, “The Beatles: Get Back”.

The images reveal the four members of arguably the most influential group during the creative process.

First, they discuss the purpose of a song – exploration. Then they create the structure of the melody, harmony and rhythm of the song through improvisation. They then record the album’s repertoire – the composition. Finally, they rehearse the songs to be interpreted as part of a specific order for future concerts – delivery.

A column for success

Another important variable is the order of the songs on an album so as to meet a number of different requirements.

For example, it is ordered to help balance palatability and appreciation. If the album contains too many intense songs at the start – for example, songs that are fast tempo, loud, and loaded with musical interaction – the listener may assume that the artist has no consideration to punctuate the “storyline” and the songs. energy levels of the album as a whole.

A producer also wants to avoid sound fatigue, which can happen when a listener is exhausted from an album that has too much musical intensity to begin with. To achieve this, producers ensure that songs vary in instrumentation, harmonic progression, and dynamic levels when placed next to each other.

The order of the tracks can also influence the empathy of listeners and their relationship to the artist’s vision for the album by reflecting the themes of the songs or the artist’s life stories in the order in which they occur. are manifested in real life. For example, a musician can tell an autobiographical story through songs that reflect their real-life timeline.

Bruce Springsteen discussed in his 2016 autobiography how thoughtfully he commissioned songs from his album “Born to Run”, to give listeners a sense of a day that goes from early morning to late at night. Meanwhile, Grammy-winning saxophonist Michael Brecker has ordered his latest album, “Pilgrimage”, to reflect the later stages of his life as he battles cancer.

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

  • Track 1: An anthem song of high energy, dynamism 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 act with completely different instrumental textures. For example, if track 1 uses a lot of acoustic instruments, then track 3 will have a more numeric attribute.
  • Track 4: A strong ballad.
  • Track 5: The second most powerful song on the album, usually in a different tempo and time signature – for example, it could be a waltz or a swing style song.
  • Tracks 6 through 11, which traditionally would have been on the “b” side of vinyl albums, tend to be more relaxed and less concerned with market appeal. They focus on conveying more philosophical and poetic nuances.
  • The last track on the album, track 12 in this example, is usually either nostalgic or doesn’t fully resolve in terms of lyrics or music. The goal is often to get the listener to buy the next album.

This structure is not set in stone, but if readers choose their favorite album, some of the above rules may apply.

The social message of an album

The sequencing of the album is usually one of the final steps and takes place during what is called a “cue session”.

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

Thinking about all that goes into sequencing an album’s tracks can give music lovers a better understanding of why Adele’s request for non-randomization has been supported by so many musicians. By clicking on shuffle, listeners can miss the message as well as the audio path that has been carefully created.

Jose V Ruiz-Resto, assistant professor of music, University of Florida

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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