“Let Me Photograph You In This Light” – Adele’s 25

adele25

Adele’s “25” is the third full-length album from the singer/songwriter in four years following the understated international success of “21.”

From vocal cord surgery to the birth of a baby boy to an ongoing struggle with writer’s block, we’ve followed Adele’s activity leading up to this release with eager anticipation.

Last month when her album dropped — at last! — I couldn’t bring myself to listen to it.*

[By the way, when was the last time you had to mentally prepare yourself to spend time with an entire album? In a singles-based world the method seems antipodal.]

One cold, rainy Sunday afternoon, I trudged home after spending the night (and two months) with someone (I loved, but) who wasn’t ready to commit.

Emotions were burnt, feelings were felt.

And it was time.

I took a hot shower, cooked a single person’s omelette, and turned the volume way up.**

Surely, there’s a therapist somewhere who’d agree that there’s comfort to be found in confronting the moroseness of life. (perhaps I’m quoting Morrissey there, or perhaps that’s just Morrissey 101.)

“25” isn’t a story based on a singular theme. Instead, many themes are woven together across the course of the album that in theory, if you’ve been dating long enough can be connected to at least one person within each.

The instant classic is “Hello.” It’s hauntingly beautiful and resolute, seemingly arriving on a night train from the past. It’s a voice that seeks to reconnect, to resolve — to validate from within the weighty fog of what once was.

The bouncing and swaying of “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” cheekily bids adieu to a former partner with whom the timing didn’t work out. Adele delivers her words with integrity and self-awareness, steadying the message while somehow reassuring us that it’s okay to reluctantly move on from someone without fully understanding every reason why. Emotively, the listener can sense her personal phoenix rising.

I was too strong you were trembling
You couldn’t handle the hot heat rising (rising)
Baby I’m so rising

“I Miss You” speaks to a physical craving gone adrift. It’s about a different type of longing — the one for human touch and sensuality. The caress of their fingertips, the way they ran their hands through your hair or down the back of your naked spine.

At this point I was typing fast but my fingers froze after the first verse of “When We Were Young.”

Everybody loves the things you do
From the way you talk
To the way you move…
Everybody here is watching you
‘Cause you feel like home
You’re like a dream come true

This song, assuredly a standout, is about the first person who truly knocked you on your ass. It’s about the sheer perfection of first love — the way you remember how that person looked at you, the beauty of youth and the flawless connection made before we grew to form our crusty outer shells.

It begs the question — when you go home for the holidays, will you see him or her again? Will everything freeze around them the way it used to, and if the two of you speak, will the words sound the same? Or will everything be different because, well, we’re grown ups now?

The sheer recognition of it all whisked me away. The song ended, I blinked a couple of times, and the distance between fifteen years ago and today was nothing but a tiny drop in the bucket.

Oh, Adele.

The album’s key themes are of youth, regret, forgiveness, self-acceptance, and the passage of time.

Adele finds a way to tie these back to the inquisitively beautiful and sometimes dark side of the mind — the one we catch glimpses of in moments of true clarity. As a lyricist this is where she excels. She finds a way to identify and voice our deeply-rooted insecurities, pushing them from the murky shadows into the light.

“All I Ask” is striking in eloquence, describing the last night spent with the love of one’s life. It ends with the question we commonly ask ourselves after doing everything we can to make a relationship work in order to avoid the inevitable — “what if I never love again?”

The finest pieces of art lend themselves to the human experience. Lyrically strong — and while not entirely gripping from a musical perspective — “25” is solid in conveying the themes it set out to support.

At occasional points the music seems decoupled from the voice almost in a timeshifting way. It’s as though the music was written for an older generation while the lyrics remain persistently modern.

I know I’m not the only one
Who regrets the things they’ve done
Sometimes I just feel it’s only me
Who never became who they thought they’d be

-Million Years Ago

Finally on “Love In The Dark,” Adele is the one initiating the break up. This is the song for the person whose heart you broke and ends with the line “I don’t think you can save me.”

Secretly, in your heart of hearts, you still wonder if that person could have done some saving after all.

“25” is a journey that is truly lovely and fully alive. It’s no surprise that, coming from Adele, the entire body of work finds a way to define and expose our most vulnerable truths in an exceptionally rare and elegant way.

This album heals and transcends. It also helps us to better comprehend.

After all, maybe that’s the artist’s intent. The desire to connect, and, after it’s all said and done quietly wonder: “Will anyone else understand?”

Yes Adele, we do.

“25” is out now. Buy the album from iTunes here

*Was this partly due to the fact that the album wasn’t available on Spotify? Probably.

**After re-learning how to buy an album on iTunes (did you know you have to navigate to “Music” separately after?)

35 Things I’ve Learned In 35 Years

Me, back when I was 34

me, back when I was 34

Wow, it feels incredibly strange to type the words! If you’re reading this, I’m huddled in a ball somewhere weeping. Just kidding! That’s what I did when I turned 30. But no, today I’m 35!

People always remark how great it is to be in their 30’s. I’d always blocked said commentary because let’s face it, personal anecdotes about getting older are never any fun.

Today I’m officially in my mid-thirties – feeling more confident, increasingly self-aware, and willing to hear someone out on a boring story. Above all, I’m more comfortable in my own skin than I was at 27 or even just a couple of years ago.

No doubt I could wake up in a few days completely freaking out (will someone check on me?), but if I do, I hope I have the good sense to revisit the list below and take a nap, or have a snack, then go outside and dance around in the sunshine.

In celebration of my birthday, here are 35 things I’ve learned in my 35 years.

 

                1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. And it’s all small stuff.

                2. Artificial anything just ain’t worth it.

                3. Except it’s okay to sometimes not know your real hair color.

                4. Don’t forget to get out of your comfort zone.

                5. And sometimes wherever you go, there you are.

                6. It’s okay to stay in on Friday night. Or on Saturday night. Or both.

                7. Always know your limits. Respect your boundaries.

                8. You can re-invent yourself at any time.

                9. And never ever stop evolving.

                10. Just don’t evolve into an asshole.

                11. And never accept a job offer where you’ll be working with assholes.

                12. After all, the geek shall inherit the earth.

                13. So make an effort to constantly fill your key cups – family, friends, community, work, and self.

                14. Don’t forget that age doesn’t matter…

                15. …But make sure to always respect your elders.

                16. Reading and writing is good for the soul.

                17. Sending someone a hand-written note yields little investment and high return.

                18. But seriously, one cookie won’t hurt.

                19. Or two.

                20. Always be yourself, no matter what.

                21. And try to live outside of…you know.

                22. Good sneakers and sunglasses are key.

                23. Warm socks and gloves in winter time always.

                24. Fashion and style are distinctly different things.

                25. Fill your home with all your favorite sights, sounds, and smells.

                26. A few tasteful items will always trump lots of random shit.

                27. But it’s okay to splurge on the good stuff.

                28. Be around kind people who make you laugh. Or think. Ideally, both.

                29. Always remember that regular exercise is totally worth it.

                30. And meditation can literally rewire the brain.

                31. Be kind to the world and the world will be kind to you in return.

                32. Everyone should also have a sports team they believe in.

                33. A lot of music from the past 5 years is pretty much derivative.

                34. Still it’s important to have a go-to album for any mood.

                35. Never mind the bollocks.

A Quiet Revolution Is Happening

Cartoon from the June 1, 2015 edition of The New Yorker

Cartoon from the June 1, 2015 edition of The New Yorker

The other week I attended a Creative Mornings lecture featuring David Allen, founder of the forthcoming Jazz & Art Museum in Oakland. Each monthly lecture features a theme and this month’s was “Revolution.”

Allen spoke about the history of jazz, folding in its founders as key examples of revolution. He said that bebop musicians understood their present and transposed it into action –  men and women who struggled like crazy for a genre that would later be called “America’s classical music.”

A few hours later, news broke that the Supreme Court of the United States ruled gay marriage legal in all fifty states. What a glorious time to be alive as we fight for equalities on American soil and see real progress being made.

Revolution comes from struggle. Personal struggle funnels up to a group of individuals who share their personal experience with others and choose to take action.

As a society, we are in the midst of a revolution. It’s not experienced in the way it was in the past because its roots take place online. We are no longer observers. We have countless channels for communicating our beliefs and participating in public discourse. There are easy-to-access options for liking and sharing; simple tools to comment and express.

Thousands of people are at our fingertips while ironically enough we ignore the person in front of us. Still, we can be heard.

We are in the midst of a quiet revolution.

We are a version of the New Abolitionists – a force that is non-violent yet aggressive, independent yet united, creating a sentiment and building a mentality that’s impossible to imprison.

Protests have been replaced by individual storms that spread across the internet like wildfire, collectively building in strength. Sit-ins have been replaced by Facebook. Moral outrage has turned inquisitive, even irreverent. Daily, we fan the flames of our collective fire.

We are ambitious, informed, and connected all the time.

We are the first generation to have grown up truly digital. As adults, it is now our responsibility to make the world a better place. In this century of innovation we have awesome tools at our disposal and through ambition are all too aware that we have limited time on this earth. The goalposts have moved and our challenges are greater than ever before.

When we tell our stories and use our voice, somehow the world aligns. It funnels back to the feeling that we are participating in our own personal revolution. “This is mine.” The present has evolved from the future I had previously imagined for myself and my kin.

We, a united group of voices, continue to be relentless in building solutions and seeking better ways of doing things and treating people.

It takes civil disobedience to enforce and encourage Democracy, a word that hasn’t been used in practice for decades. That disobedience is really a mentality our generation has created through collective mindshare.

Together, we speak. United, we have the ability to create change.

 

Tiny Words

Photo

Photo Credit: Modestas Urbonas via Unsplash

Changing the title for this blog, typically, is an instinctual move. Sometimes it’s driven by an SEO experiment, other times by so-called “artistic inclination.” This time around I wanted something more diminutive – a name that wouldn’t be as one-sided, as flippant or obtuse. I also wanted to acknowledge more of what this site actually is – a random place for all sorts of tiny little projects.

You see, some posts contain playlists. Some consist of random musings without images, others are nothing but images. Other posts are tiny bits of poetry, scattered and tagged about – shards of random digits strewn across an unknown server, never finding a home with the exception of perhaps a temporary bookmark stored at some place in time. 

It’s almost fitting that copywriting for apps is similar. Each bit of copy is completely autonomous yet somehow weaves itself into a larger story. Letters are whittled down to the smallest possible phrase while remaining (hopefully) catchy and as action-oriented as possible.

These tiny words must keep all of our tiny screens in mind, mindful of what we want to encourage the user to do. 

Writing for an app is like writing a series of haikus.

Over the years, this site has become an elongated version of that concept.

I renamed this blog to identify the tiny bits of content available through various intonations – a sandbox, if you will – for testing them out. For weaving some sort of larger, non-linear based narrative. 

Usually there’s a steady stream of content but when things get weird in life, as they sometimes do, I run out of things to say. In the last six months things in my personal life have evolved, as life tends to happen in that way, and as evidenced by the emergence of another series that has somehow grown into a place of nourishment, openness, and community. 

For a few years there was a place of sadness and uncertainty that has, in time, been replaced by something stronger and potentially more powerful than ever before. I like to think that my voice has grown and continues to grow every day. I am committed to delivering on this voice as this site itself continues to evolve. 

Thank you for hanging in there with me, dear reader or passer-by, as I posted various interviews, musings, reviews, and write-ups over the years. Thank you for hanging in there when things did get weird and I went away for a little bit. I’m happy to be back. Building again, in my unique way, in this tiny space.

How To Build A Successful Marketing Stack In The New App Economy

white iPhone

There are many ways to drive users consistently to your app while delivering exactly what they want in the form of an entertaining and – if you’re lucky – addictive in-app experience. Based on your initial target market along with what you learn about your users, all it takes is a series of steps that are tactical, measurable, and scalable in methodology.

While your business needs must always be tied directly to your implementation plan, there are many things you can do to interact directly with your core user base while simultaneously reaching target market groups.

Here are 5 key steps to get there:

1. Know and Serve Your Audience

Beyond Google Analytics and platform-specific marketing tools, tap into the social media earpiece to speak with and listen to your core user base.

Outside of basic affinity metrics, what are their interests? What do they want, and most importantly what do they care about? Do you attract design nerds, community lovers, foodies, music fans – perhaps a combination of several of these groups?

What daily problems do they face, and how can you help solve them through technology? By learning about your audience, you’ll best be able to draw conclusions about what type of content to create and experiences to deliver and thereby stay one step ahead of the game.

Target markets are the measurable, critical component that ultimately drive app growth. The key is to hook these users early by delivering exactly what they want (or something close to it) while consistently keeping yourself in their digital spheres by leveraging the channels where they hang out the most.

After that, the real fun begins – this is where you can work on bringing the somewhat-to-average app user to ultimate fan status.

2. Deliver, Deliver, Deliver

Related to #1, you should provide users with exactly what they want. Deliver items tied to their interests, and you will open the door to increased usage, upsells, and app growth.

Don’t forget that your #1 marketing channel is word of mouth. This directly contributes to the velocity of the number of downloads acquired and is also a key metric for visibility in the iTunes app store in terms of store ranking and feature placement.

Seed content by hiring top-tier and relevant storytellers to expand your reach on blogs and social media. Create engaging content – and don’t worry about the rules. Create Instagram content just as cool as your friends would create. Reach out to influencers through various platforms (again, where they hang out), and you’ll wind up with a channel that can create significant impact.

3. Embrace the Funnel

Tap into how people are using your app. User behavior is telling, from the newbie to the frequent user. Examine where they drop off and investigate why it happens. If your on-boarding screen is collecting the correct information, you already have basic contact info available. This creating an easy entry point to remarket by offering incentives to return for more, which leads to the following…

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Pivot

Stay true to your product roadmap, but always be available and willing to ask questions. If something isn’t working and you receive the same feedback time and time again, the suggestion may be worth acting upon.

If a feature recommendation comes to the table that actually makes sense, that’s a terrific thing. And it’s free feedback! Let that feedback gently inform your product roadmap, and keep iterating on the product with this information in mind.

5. Utilize Tools with Built-in Engagement Mechanisms

Facebook bought Parse for a reason – they are now directly tied to developers and thus can make the development process of integrating with Facebook simple. Twitter and Google are also in the game of making significant investments in tools that provide easy access to app analytics, built-in promotional tools, and other strategies that provide natural stepping stones into proprietary advertising platforms that drive app downloads, which in turn drives revenue (Facebook earned $1.95 billion in Q3 2014 on mobile ads alone).

While it’s been proven that buying ads on Facebook works well, further evidence shows that content-driven engagement will always be of interest. Combined with the above tactics – examining user behavior, knowing and serving your audience, creating original content, and not being afraid to pivot – you can leverage many tools that lead to the promotion and distribution of a highly successful app.