Adele Adkins is a young woman from Tottenham, London. You probably just know her simply as Adele though.
Following on from 2008’s 19 and 2011’s 21, Adele returns to grace us with her third studio album, 25 which, if nothing else, highlights the artist’s determination to inform us of what year she was born.
“If nothing else”? Please! There is so much else to this artist. Emotional lyrical depth, pristine musical delivery, modern production, and of course, that voice.
Adele’s 2011 sophomore record, 21, finished with the resigned “Never mind, I’ll find someone like you/I wish nothing but the best for you”. 25, the latest effort from the London songstress, begins with the global smash hit, “Hello” and it’s raw opening “Hello, it’s me, I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet to go over everything”. This encapsulates not only the continuing raw and autobiographical nature of Adele’s song writing, but the continued themes of lost love and regret that now seem synonymous with the artist.
That is not to say though that Adele is a one trick pony. This album sees her not only venture lyrically into new themes of growing up, loss of home and even dealing with fame, but also polishing that pure emotion with a cricket team’s worth of the most famous producers in the industry today.
After the commanding opening track “Hello”, this more modern musical approach is best displayed on the album’s second track “Send My Love (to Your New Lover)” seeing Adele team up with the famous Swedish production duo of Max Martin and Shellback (Taylor Swift, P!nk, Katy Perry).
Where other tracks such as “Water Under the Bridge”, produced by Greg Kurstin (Foster the People, Lily Allen, Sia), and “River Lea”, produced by Danger Mouse (Gnarls Barkley, The Black Keys), move Adele musically away from her soul roots, the strong vocal delivery remains. This trademark vocal power is overshadowed on “Send My Love” by Martin and Shellback’s production and vocal augmentation. It is a good song, but it does not belong on 25. It would perhaps be suited better to Adele’s next record, given her album and career progression from soul to pop, best exemplified in the choice of producers on 25 (think Taylor Swift’s progression from country to pop).
Despite the foray into the electronic, there is no doubt on 25 that the piano is still Adele’s best friend. Tracks “When We Were Young”, “Remedy”, “Love in The Dark” and “All I Ask” see that unmistakable voice paired with its loyal spouse, occasionally with a sprinkling of fine orchestral arrangements. This ensures that Adele fans still receive those raw, stripped-back and delicate ballads that made them fall in love with the singer in the first place.
That said, lyrically there are new signs of unrest beyond those of former lovers, especially with respect to the singer’s lack of connection with her home and growing up, on “River Lea” and “Million Years Ago”. The River Lea itself runs through Adele’s hometown of Tottenham and as she explained recently in an interview with The New York Times, “even though I don’t feel like I’ve changed, I don’t have anything in common with who I was when I lived in Tottenham any more.” “Million Years Ago” also touches on a loss of home: “When I walk around all of the streets/ Where I grew up and found my feet/They can’t look me in the eye”.
The closing bookend to the album is “Sweetest Devotion”, a counterpoint to its counterpart that begins the record. Where “Hello” sees Adele looking to reconnect with a former lovely due to loneliness, “Sweetest Devotion” sees her head over heels in love again with a renewed sense of optimism: “I find it funny that you’re the only/One I never looked for/There is something in your loving/That tears down my walls”. The track leaves listeners with a joyous finale after the extensive catharsis of the ten previous tracks, highlighting how far the singer has come since the timid and fragile opening of the record.
Overall, 25 sees Adele at her vulnerable best, delivering 11 emotion-laden tracks with more power than any of her contemporaries combined. Despite the fragility she portrays in her songs, there is immense strength there, and it can’t be a surprise that this young woman has captured the imaginations of millions of people around the world. She is a pop artist, but she isn’t from a TV show. She sings honest and meaningful lyrics, but accompanies them perfectly with deep yet catchy melodies that detract nothing from those words. In this she is peerless. Most of all, she is respected. And when commercial radio is currently playing tracks like “Dessert” by Dawin, is it any wonder this 25 year old (in case you didn’t get it from the album title) is smashing it out of the park?
Rating – 8/10
Album Title: 25
Genre: Pop, Soul
Moments Of Stand Out: That voice
This review was written by: Ellipsis