** I wanted to like this. I really did. I enjoy the emotive songwriting and the production is lovely and appropriate to the mood of the song. I can see that many have related and enjoy this song, but it just has not clicked with me unfortunately. I wish Amy Shark all the best though and I am very glad to see this song succeed.
**** I often see a curiosity as to whether or not music can exist in a vacuum. Obviously the literal answer is no, but in this perspective, it's about whether or not the value of the music can be changed by the circumstances surrounding it. And then when you think about it, again the answer should always be yes, because everything you listen to is in some way going to be affected by pre-conceptions built up upon from other things you listen to. If only one song ever did a verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus format, that song would be strikingly odd to you. It's through its prevalence that such a specific format is not remotely novel.
I bring this up because it's been an issue of contention for me regarding this song. I've come to the realisation that I can only really enjoy the song in a vacuum of sorts, because the circumstances surrounding it just generally rub me the wrong way. This is not relating to the music itself, but the somewhat ingenuine manner that it's been pushed to the forefront.
To elaborate, "Adore" was released in the middle of last year, originally on triple j Unearthed. It caught some strong attention from listeners once it got picked up on triple j rotation, and became a steady seller on iTunes. It was undoubtedly a hit, just without the full audience to propell it. Things stepped up a notch when Amy Shark came into the triple j studios to do the Like A Version segment. Aside from being a peak ratings time, it serves as a great way to really push an artist into the forefront. Much like reality TV has shown us for many years, people will feel a stronger connection when they get attached to the person behind the song. It's actually I think a key behind modern shifts in genre relevance. This combined with the unprecedented attention being focused on the song results in a sales boom, as all the people who have heard the song but don't have it cross their mind when they go to the iTunes store, suddenly can't avoid it.
So then the song was a big crossover success? Nope. Amy was an unsigned artist at this point, with no means to capitalise on this newfound attention. It surely did wonders for selling out shows, but having a big hit single is about a constant flooding of attention for the entire lifespan of the song, as much as we'd all like it to be the case, songs really don't just become hits on their own.
But lo and behold, shortly after that performance, Amy signed an international record deal with Sony Music Australia. If you attentively follow the charts in Australia, you will know that Sony have a way with propelling songs into the stratosphere by force. They really have a knack for timing mass promotion until a song sticks, which never would be achieved with more passive methods. Sony is also the major label that consistently takes the lion share of radio airplay ahead of Universal & Warner, so you'd think that they'd take advantage of this hit on their hands and make sure it gets where it needs to go?
Nope. They practically sat on their hands in the ensuing weeks. The song wasn't pushed on radio, Spotify or TV, it was just left to run on its own momentum. But it feels clear to me why that was the case. It was nearing the end of the year, and triple j's Hottest 100 was coming around the corner, "Adore" was a hotly tipped favourite to place highly already, and they knew that as soon as January 26th rolls around the corner, the song was destined to receive a huge sales and streaming boost, and that would be their moment to strike.
In the ensuing days after the song landed in the #2 slot in the countdown, Sony pulled out all the stops. The song was suddenly being promoted as a Hot Track on the front of iTunes, the song was at long last included on the most popular Spotify playlist in Australia, with a cover image to boot, and the song was bolting up the radio airplay charts. All of this could have happened months ago, but it would perhaps be too spread out, they needed to capitalise on the peak moment to make the most of it. Once the momentum was starting to slip a little, they even discounted it on iTunes to keep it locked firmly in the 'would be #1 if Ed Sheeran wasn't insanely popular' slot. If that's all not enough, the song was belatedly removed from triple j Unearthed so people couldn't get a free copy of it, and the song's release date was even pushed forward to a more fresh sounding November 2016 date.
Now, while a bit extreme, this is all just standard practice. Labels do want to make the most out of their investments, and to seize an opportunity is just common sense. The reason it bothers me is how much all of this is just preying on naivety of the consumer. "Adore" isn't just successful because people connect to the music, it's successful because people connect to the package. A struggling artist who's been in the industry for years, strikes gold and is rewarded for it. It's an underdog story, and people love underdog stories. I love underdog stories, and supporting artists that don't have any sort of backing like this.
The inherent problem is that this stopped being an underdog story back in November, by then it was calculated big business. The worst thing is that it was continually pushed as if it weren't. When voting was open for triple j's Hottest 100, Amy Shark would regularly post updates asking for people to vote for her 'little song', which again is standard practice, but it started to feel shady when it became quite apparent that Amy was very clearly following the instagram hashtag people would tag on their votes. I know this because not only was she liking and occasionally commenting on vote posts that she was tagged in (eg she'd get a notification for them), but also ones she wasn't. What this means is that she'd see an unfiltered cross section of a huge chunk of voters, with her song appearing in about 20% of them. It doesn't take much statistical analysis to know that this would warrant a very high ranking, and even less to know that it essentially guarantees a placing. If Amy had dreams of just placing in the countdown, then she'd know pretty safely that it would be happening, but it became quite clear to me that she was aware that the top gong was in reach and she'd make quite an effort to try and see to it.
At the end of last year, she posted a Facebook video that basically ticked all the standard touchstones, about how she was humbled by the support, 2016 had been a huge year for her etc, all fine. Towards the end of the video, she tacked on a bit about how much she'd love it if people were to vote for her song in the Hottest 100. What caught my attention about it was the particular phrasing she used for this. It wasn't so much about how happy she'd be for it, but instead towards the audience, and how happy THEY would be if they liked the song and got to hear it at some stage in the countdown. I reiterate that she was certainly well aware that her song was going to poll strongly, but she kept pushing an angle that there was uncertainty to her polling at all, which is all just disingenuous and abusing of people's trust and perceptions that she was a true underdog in the scenario. Compare this to Flume who obviously has no business putting himself in that guise, and didn't say anything until voting was nearly closed and he just thanked those who voted for him, never asking for it or even linking the voting page once. I didn't have strong difference of opinions between the songs, but I was somewhat glad when Flume won because it felt like he deserved it more.
So basically I just can't see this as the organic success story that it so eagerly wants to come across as so I just can't really support it when there are artists who genuinely need it more. There's a fear in me of tokenism too, where this takes up the slot of *the* underdog that people support which inherently blocks those others. Certainly there are very specific instances wherein this takes up a slot on the iTunes store front over songs that need it more.
This is where the whole thing gets especially messy because holy shit I totally get why people connect to this song. It's perhaps one of those things where a situation is so specific, yet so universal. I am of course talking about the content of the song. A song about just uh, a little crush, but one from someone too shy to really act upon it.
It's all the little lyrical fluorishes that make the song stick out to me. The conflicted portrayal of indifference of the opening lines in particular. It doesn't even matter if she was outwardly rejected or not, there's that sense of defeat that's universal for 'my life could be in a better place if...'.
It's not all sadness though, because it also carries an awkward pleasure retained from even the most minor interactions. It borders on creepy/obsessive, but when it's the best you have, who can blame you for treasuring it? It's a song about being a creep, a weirdo, a loser baby, but one that's owned with celebration of the status.
That I relate so strongly to the song is pure reflection of how much I was that loser. Actually the more I think about it, the more on the surface I concerningly feel like I was the typical 'nice guy' in high school. I guess the key difference being that I was fully aware of my flaws and never felt entitled. This song is cathartic in a sense for so thoroughly portraying these emotions that I myself could not manage to articulate before this song was released. And everything feels better when you know that you're not alone in life, even in things that pertain to being alone.
tl;dr I think Amy Shark has a good marketing team but isn't quite some new-found prodigy. She just had a lucky strike in this instance.