Whether you're creating a new app or a new album, there comes a point in the project when you'll receive some harsh, negative feedback.
No one--not even Adele--is immune to it.
The award-winning singer-songwriter recently finished her forthcoming album, "25," due out Nov. 20. Sales should not be a problem. Her previous record, "21," sold 31 million copies at a time when the concept of buying music is dying (except maybe in Japan). Four years later, fans seem to salivating for Adele's new material. "Hello," the first single from "25," which was released on Oct. 22, amassed 50 million YouTube views in its first 48 hours. As of the morning of Nov. 6, it had surpassed 250 million views.
Yet Adele's creative process in making the album--detailed recently in Rolling Stone by Brian Hiatt--reveals an artist who did anything but take her customers for granted. In fact, Adele demonstrated a knack for listening to constructive feedback, slowing down for the sake of quality, and battling through personal disappointments. She was also working on the album while raising a young boy.
Taking Feedback Gracefully
One of the slower-developing songs was "Hello." Six months passed between writing of its verses and the writing of its chorus. Producer/co-writer Greg Kurstin told Rolling Stone that he didn't know if Adele would ever finish it. "I just had to be very patient," he said.
Early last year, Adele sought the input of record industry legend Rick Rubin, who'd advised her on "21." After Rubin listened to the demos, he delivered a harsh critique. "He looked at Adele and told her, 'I don't believe you,'" Hiatt writes. In Rubin's opinion, the songs were too poppy. They lacked one of Adele's artistic hallmarks: emotional depth. They didn't sound like the Adele he had come to know. Here's how Rubin explained it to Hiatt:
Adele was anxious to be finished with the new album and move forward with life. I stressed the most important thing was to be true to her voice, even if that took longer and was more work... In the new material I heard, it was clear she wasn't the primary writer--many of the songs sounded like they might be on a different pop artist's album."
Rather than sulking or disputing Rubin's take, Adele admitted she agreed with him. She scarcely believed her own voice on the songs, and she was, indeed, rushing the process. She wanted to be with her boy. "And that's not a way to make any kind of record," she tells Rolling Stone. "So I went back to the drawing board, really."
Rubin's feedback wasn't the only creative disappointment from which she'd have to rebound. She had hoped to compose and sing with Damon Albarn, the lead singer of Blur, whom she's always admired. It didn't work out. In fact, Hiatt writes, Albarn told the media that "Adele was 'insecure' and that her music was 'middle of the road.'"
Nothing they worked on wound up on the album. "It ended up being one of those 'don't meet your idol' moments," Adele tells Rolling Stone. "And the saddest thing was that I was such a big Blur fan growing up. But it was sad, and I regret hanging out with him."
How did she get her confidence back? By writing and singing about what was true to her. On "Remedy," she was tearing up as she wrote the lyrics. "I wrote it about my child," she tells Rolling Stone. "But I sang it for everyone that I really love. When I wrote it, I got my confidence back in my writing 'cause I believed in myself."