21 – Adele (2011)


As I write this review London born Singer/Songwriter Adele is probably the most renown and successful pop star on the planet.

Her music is treated with an hype and anticipation that is generally only reserved for stalwarts such as David Bowie or Kate Bush. The lack of information about her personal life gives credence to her craft and Adele manages to appeal to all ages from the 40-60 audience as well as the teenagers. The image Adele portrays is as if she is above every other artist but it is done in a cool nonchalant way.

Whilst debut album “19” was reviewed well and was a successful start it was the follow up “21” which saw Adele garner enormous triumph.

Criticism of Adele will usually be based around her music being “boring”. This is a statement I can understand but I look at it like this: Adele sings very personal songs about her life and her feelings. You are taken into her world and the relationship struggles she has endured. This is like meeting someone and them telling you about their life and the pain they have gone through – if you find their story uninteresting you will never connect and this is the same for the album “21”. You either are interested in what she is saying or you or not.

“Rolling in the deep” is the song that starts the album off and it is an extremely strong opener. It was the lead single off the album and a massive hit world wide. Musically the song is the best on the album by far from the acoustic strum which starts it off to the big marching band drums. The vocal shows incredible range and the heartbreak theme is delivered impeccably.

I really like the backing vocals in the song which give this 60’s girls band feel to the song which is something Amy Winehouse was trying to get to in her album “Back To Black”. That 60’s feel continues to the bridge where there is a hand clapping breaking down with the lyric “We could have had it all” being prominently focused on. “Rolling in the deep” is a catchy and unique pop song which works well.

“Rumour Has It” again brings in the big marching band sound with the drums beginning the song. The song is what you would consider a ‘stomper”. The use of hand claps are again used and it is at this point where I was hoping the production wouldn’t be this familiar throughout the album and this and “Rolling In The Deep” are similar in style. Both opening tracks are defiant in their lyrics and you wouldn’t really know that the rest of the album would show a much more vulnerable side.

“Turning Tables” is backed by a very beautiful piano composition which on it’s own would be pleasant to listen to. The introduction of the strings bulks the song and Adele sounds extremely good on this track. This is the type of song which shows why she has become so popular because you believe what she is saying and you believe it because of her voice. The vocal is almost raspy at times and it is that emotion which takes you into her world.

The lyrics “Turning Tables” is said quite a lot throughout the song but it is at 3:39 where she is ad libbing slightly where I really get the sense that she is contemplating what she is saying. A great vocal on this one.

“Don’t You Remember” is a bit of a damp squib. The lyrics are formulaic and is just asking this man to remember the reason he loved her in the first place. It’s a subject that’s been done to death and the track doesn’t show much in the way of creative production either with a boring and uninteresting composition.

“Set Fire to The Rain” was the third single from the album. I hate the lyric “Set Fire To The Rain”. I have always thought it was just a silly way to describe what she is trying to say which is getting out of a relationship which has become too difficult due to the other person playing too many games. Despite this being a hit and another popular Adele song I find it tedious and lacking any soul.

“He Won’t Go” does have soul. And it’s soulful R&B groove is much more enjoyable for my ears. When the bass kicks in it is the first time Adele actually shows any groove and whilst I would like to have seen something like a funk break down in the song I know I am unlikely to get anything like that from such a clean cut album. Without something like that in the song it does fizzle out from such a good first minute.

“Take It All” is musically redundant as Adele warbles about this man who has left her and she is asking him is it really over. My problem with the song is that Adele sounds too needy. I am all for heartbreak but she is selling herself very short with this track where lines like “Everything I do, I do for you” is something we all hated hearing Bryan Adams insincerely say years before. I would rather Adele mentioned she had been drinking in the song then at least I could understand such hollow lyrics which she does not mean.

“I’ll Be Waiting” is musically much more interesting than many of the tracks on the album. It’s a piano led bluesy soulful number which her vocal sounds much more like what you would expect from her. The song’s theme is similar to “Take It All” but it’s much more believable. The tune is uplifting and has gospel influences throughout. It’s a song about moving forward and its a solid album track.

“One and Only” is a another display of her range of vocal. The song in itself is uninteresting and the theme is again of Adele trying to comes to terms with a breakdown her relationship.

“Lovesong” is a cover which was originally performed by The Cure. As a fan of the original which includes an actually baseline and some brilliant production I find this cover almost unrecognizable. Not a fan of this at all.

The album finishes with a song which is arguably the most famous song on the entire set. “Someone Like You” is the tale of Adele turning up at her ex boyfriends doorstep and pour her heart.

“I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited
But I couldn’t stay away, I couldn’t fight it.
I had hoped you’d see my face and that you’d be reminded
That for me it isn’t over.”

This is such a desperate lyric and you feel her desperation when she is saying it. If you were watching this on television you would wince at what she is doing as this man has clearly moved on and she realises it soon after she says these words. I like the fact then she even attempts to play it off with:

“Never mind, I’ll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you too
Don’t forget me, I beg”

Now if that doesn’t tug at the heart strings you are surely heartless.

The fact this person has moved on does ask the question just how long has it been since they broke up. Adele is essentially having a break down in this track and to turn up at his front door is madness. It’s full on desperation and not in a cute way. You can imagine this man at his front door thinking “what are you doing?”.

By the end of the song I do leave hoping that she manages to sort her self out as it is clear she cannot deal with what has happened. Someone needs to help her out and I genuinely hope she can learn to move on and get on with her life.

Sadly Adele’s recent new song “Hello” shows that this may not have happened.

Adele’s story like any story is going to hit home with some and bore others. She certainly bares her soul and I agree this has to be considered a Soul album as soul music is not defined by skin colour.

The success Amy Winehouse had certainly opened the door for UK female singers but Adele has done well to come across as vulnerable and instantly evokes empathy from the listener.

I would like to see some more inventive production on her tracks going forward as listening to the album in one clump can be a little grating but this is a solid album which does exactly what it set out to achieve.



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