Hello. It’s me.
I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to see me CD purchasing.
Because I bought it. I purchased the new Adele album, “25,” which is not so much an album of music by a talented artist (it’s that, too), as a cultural must-own, the rare piece of pop music that straddles generations of fans and inspires thousands of covers, parodies and think pieces. Before this it was Taylor Swift’s “1989.” Two years ago around this time, it was Beyoncé’s surprise self-titled album dropping on iTunes.
It’s not unusual that I bought this album. It’s sold 4.2 million copies as of this writing in the U.S. alone. It’s going to sell many millions more before Christmas. What’s unusual, for me at least, was that I bought a physical copy instead of downloading “25.”
I stopped buying CDs a while ago. Not in any conscious decision, not in a fit of pique, all, “That’s it! I’m done! Be gone, shiny, breakable platters!” It was just a slow drift that started when I upgraded to a pro Spotify account a few years ago. Instead of ordering CDs on Amazon upon their debut or hitting up Waterloo Records, I’d just queue up a new album when it hit Spotify, creating a playlist, and listening over and over until I moved on to something else.
If I really loved an album and wanted to keep it on my phone for any moment, even those increasingly rare times when I don’t have a good enough Internet connection to stream music, I’d buy it digitally on iTunes, Amazon or wherever an indie artist might be offering the album.
So why the Adele album? First off, it’s not on Spotify. Or Apple Music. Or any other streaming music service. Same as Taylor Swift’s album, which sent me desperately to iTunes to purchase “Shake it Off” for the kids when it became the primary dance anthem in our home.
I could give the excuse that I wanted some bonus tracks, as many buyers who bought the physical CD at Target sought. But no, instead I bought it on sale at Hastings on Black Friday because I was already there buying something else and I had a gift card to burn. $12 didn’t seem like much of an burn in my finances and something about Adele’s sepia-toned, searching eyes on the cover made it very easy to grab the CD, take it to the register, and bring it home.
But I think in my case, it’s more about Adele herself. About that on-fire voice, which sounds just as good live on “Saturday Night Live” as it does out of a studio. It’s about remembering the first time I heard Adele, as a free digital download of her song, “Hometown Glory,” which grabbed me and made me wonder, “Who is THAT?!”
It’s about seeing her on “Ugly Betty” once and cheering because here was the perfect match of global music start about to break big and a TV show the celebrated unconventional beauty and the kind of imperfect love affairs and heartbreaks that Adele’s music embraces.
It was about supporting an artist who doesn’t need streaming, whose one name tell you that you’re going to hear some incredible vocals and that you might cry when you do.
But it was also, probably, about making a conscious choice with my dollars (OK, gift card credit) that the only CD I’m likely to buy this year is for that artist, the one who should be breaking every sales record because she’s that good.
I know lots of people who have ditched CDs and DVDS, purging them from shelves and living in an all-streaming, Netflix-and-Spotify world that, if nothing else, sounds temptingly clutter free. I wondered a while back if computer CD/DVD drives were next.
But a funny thing happened as I wondered if I was the weird one for buying a CD. I asked friends on Twitter and Facebook if they’ve ditched CDs. A Twitter poll of 77 people (click this link for all the replies) showed that there are definitely still some holdouts.
Seriously wondering if the Adele album might be the last CD I ever buy.
— Omar L. Gallaga (@omarg) December 1, 2015
Have you bought an actual physical music CD in the last year?
— Omar L. Gallaga (@omarg) December 1, 2015
And a lengthy Facebook thread reveals that a lot of my friends buy CDs in order to support local artists (who, they say, get a bigger cut of money from a physical CD than they would from a digital music service such as iTunes), buy them as gifts or have moved to vinyl.
Adele might be our best proof this year that for quite a lot of people, CDs aren’t dead yet.