Life is an ambiguous journey, laden with mysteries. Some of these we can actually answer, like who framed Roger Rabbit and the conundrum of will.i.am's enduring popularity (conclusion: he doesn't make music, he supplies brain crack to fiending drunk people). Others, like just what in the hell we're all doing on this godforsaken rock, we'll probably never resolve. One important mystery, though, has weighed heavily on my mind for the past year and to be frank, I am writing this mostly as therapy, hoping that by resolving this puzzle in my own head I might finally make an attempt to surge forward with my life. The question that plagues me, the enigma that ceaselessly haunts my dreams is simply this: who in the f*%#ing f*%# is still buying Adele's 2011 album, 21?
Here's some quick background for those who have been living safely under a rock, shielded from the corruptive glow of mass popular culture for the past three years. You see back in a bygone era, January 2011 to be exact, an alluring bard from the British Isles, Adele was her name, released her sophomore album, 21, to rapturous acclaim and even more rapturous commercial success. 21 belly-laughed in the face of everything we had come to know about the mainstream music biz over the past decade, spawning hit single after hit single and selling albums like it was 1996 and Al Gore had never invented the internet. By the end of 2011, anyone who was anyone owned this sucker.
The following year, 2012, the album won approximately 976 Grammys, countless other awards and was basically elevated to a platform previously enjoyed only by Roman emperors, G-d and Michael Jackson. After awards season, statistically everyone owned "21" (27 million people worldwide, to be exact) and statistically everyone loved 21 (again, 27 million. Really, what's not to like? Have you no soul!?). Owning this album became just a basic tenant of being alive, like air or water or eating your feelings when you're sad.
Or so I thought. This week, as I scanned the billboard charts obsessively as has been my procrastination technique for a decade, my eyes hit #22 on the album chart and you'll never guess who I saw down there! Why, her Majesty of Tottenham, Adele, of course! "Hey! What are you still doing here?" I asked, rather perplexed that she was still hanging around the party at such a late hour. "This is where I live this year!" she responded kindly, eyes gazing around affectionately at #22 and its lush surroundings in sunny Billboards-ville.
Indeed, 21 sold almost twenty-thousand copies this week. Twenty-thousand! That means that after all that, after the buzz, "Rolling in the Deep," the critical accolades, "Someone Like You," the massive live performances, "Set Fire to the Rain," The Grammys, The Grammy performance, multiple millions in album sales, the temples built in her honor, her election as the new Pope and her fast-track to sainthood, not just a few folks, but twenty thousand people in the U.S. alone just thought, "You know what? I think it's high-time for me to go out and get that Adele lady's album. She's proven herself to me and I think she's darn good!" Just for some perspective, 21 sold seven-thousand more copies this week than fellow crooner Alicia Keys' Girl on Fire and the latter came out just three months ago.
So just who are these ethereal, incomprehensible beings who are just now, 110 weeks after it first saw the light of day, finally taking the $9.99 plunge into 21? Here are five of my best guesses:
1. Grandmothers: Part of 21's massive success can be owed to the fact that it appealed to so many disparate demographics. This is a rare pop album that can be fully embraced by both your 12-year-old cousin and your 83-year-old grandmother. The difference being, of course, that your tech-savvy cuzzo probably copped this mofo within the first few weeks of its release and is like, so way totally over it by now (These days, he's most likely at Ultra raving out to Skrillex). Meanwhile, ol' grandma is just now getting around to that Wall Street Journal profile, putting down her chamomile tea, ever-so cautiously lifting herself off the plastic-covered couch and moseying on down to the local WalMart to acquire the new Adele 12-inch.
2. Hipsters: Now I know hipsters were probably some of the first people to buy 21, ya know, before it got all popular and mainstream and all that other stuff that hipsters generally shun. But maybe now it's all come full-circle and it's actually cool to buy 21 again, ironically. "I'm really feeling that vintage Adele sound, lately," mutters one hipster to another over some pho. "Word. Let's go see Spring Breakers cuz I don't have a TV," his buddy responds, passively thumbing through his iPhone.
3. Lonely Hearts: One crew of potential recent 21 converts could be the sad souls who are currently going through break-ups. 21 is a definitive, timeless break-up album and since we're just now coming to the end of a long, harsh winter, many couples may be in the process ending relationships that they were just in for the warmth, anyway. While these peeps may have been too busy snuggling to listen to 21 last year, now as they do their spring cleaning, attempt to pick up the pieces of their shattered hearts and weep as they realize they just might die alone after-all, it's just what the doctor ordered! "Yay" for the power of music, am I right!?
4. Adele: Look, I can't say this with any certainty, but we do know that massive fame and success often breeds madness (see: Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, Lindsay Lohan, Sarah Palin, etc.). Maybe Adele, currently saddled at home with her newborn baby and more money than she knows what do with, slips over to her laptop during nap time, opens iTunes and just goes HAM spending her fortune buying her own music. I have absolutely no evidence to support this, but with a mystery this deeply complexing, we're in no position to rule anything out.
5. The Formerly Homeless: It's the age-old story of the American Dream: Start from the bottom (like Drake) and slowly claw your way to the top just so you can buy Adele's 21. Maybe there's a whole crew of former vagabonds, people who just couldn't make ends meet in 2011 and 2012, who now have that extra 10 bucks to treat themselves to a little expertly-sung neo-soul music. After all, the economy's all better now, right? Could be folks, COULD BE!
That's really all I've got. Honestly, I'm still pretty much completely bewildered by this whole affair, and don't feel any closer to a greater understanding. I may eventually just have to accept this as one of life's unsolvable puzzles, much like what exactly Jello is or who really carried Blue Ivy Carter. But then again, maybe you all can help me. Anyone got some insight that could help crack the case of these exceedingly late-to-the-party 21- buyers? ANYONE!?