Album Review: ADELE – 25

“Thank you for the time I’ve been given” reads the acknowledgements inside her album cover, and Adele has certainly taken her time. Already the best-selling album of 2015, 25 has been well received globally. But why did Adele make us wait this long? And can it match the unforeseen and long-term success of her second album, 21?

There has been little publicity for this album and for good reason: there is just something obsessively endearing about Adele, one of the most humble, down to earth, normal pop stars around today. Adele produces the kind of music she wants to; she trusted her fans to support her decision not to stream on various platforms, knowing they’d trust the quality of her output and buy the music straight off. Indeed they did. 3 million of them in the US alone.

Her vocals on this album are, as always, sublime. She revealed on her recent show Adele: Live at the BBC that, since an operation a few years ago on her voice, she can now sing much lower and much higher, and this range only builds upon the strong but characterful voice she’s so famous for.

The album opens with the already infamous ‘Hello’. It’s an instant classic but in the context of the album, it is something of an anomaly. It is particularly reminiscent of 21 while the rest of this album promotes a ‘new and improved’ sound for the singer. Having said that, it was the perfect first single to be released, because it is the Adele we know and love. It might not be surprising but it is a powerful, emotional, striking song and likely won’t leave the charts anytime soon.

The next track, ‘Send My Love (To Your New Lover)’ is a new sound for Adele. The vocals are of course instantly recognisable, but the production is new and surprising, and arguably, lets the song down. Maybe it’s selfish of me to want every song to sound as beautiful as ‘Someone Like You’, but, like ‘Rolling in the Deep’, my least favourite song from 21, ‘Send My Love’ sounds disappointingly manufactured. The third track, ‘I Miss You’, has the same problem. The lyrics are heart wrenching, but the production doesn’t reach its full potential. It doesn’t sound quite like the Adele we’re used to and, though enjoyable, is easily forgotten.

“‘I Miss You’ doesn’t sound quite like the Adele we’re used to and is easily forgotten”

‘Water Under The Bridge’ is another example of this, and is one of a handful of songs which have a slightly more pop/dance feel than it has before. This is probably due to the influence of Max Martin, who appears as a co-writer on the album and is famous for producing multiple award-winning pop albums for the likes of Britney Spears and The Backstreet Boys.

Second single ‘When We Were Young’ however stands out from the opening piano chord. It is full of raw emotion and tells a beautiful story through its lyrics. Adele tests her voice, pushing it further than she did with an earlier classic like ‘Chasing Pavements’, and the result is the mature ballad, a six-year-older development of the same: a simple melody allows Adele the space to roar the lyrics at you and break your heart while she does it. This single, released as a live recording, is definitely a highlight from the album.

It is followed by ‘Remedy’, which is successful in part because it has the best instrumental on the album, with a beautiful piano melody supporting Adele’s emotional performance. Perhaps let down by clichéd lyrics, such as “when the pain cuts you deep/when the night keeps you from sleeping”, the song is still easy to pick up and hard to forget.

‘Love in the Dark’ is a personal favourite from the album, and is one for the fans of the heart-wrenching side to her character. Following the haunting ‘River Lea’, it is at this point in the album that a narrative becomes apparent, and it is quintessentially Adele: personal pain of heartbreak intertwined with the resilience that love and motherhood have given her.

‘Million Years Ago’ is quiet, soulful and again, heart-breaking. Adele is obsessed with her past and it comes through on this song the most. A stand out track, it is almost acapella – Adele needs no accompaniment on this song beside gently plucked guitar, her voice surges with raw emotion and is all you need to hear. This is Adele at her best and was particularly beautiful when she sang it on Adele: Live at the BBC, which is definitely worth watching if you haven’t already.

‘All I Ask’ has more beautiful vocals and piano accompaniment and is another example of Adele’s new version of her classic ballad: can anyone except Adele make a reasonably upbeat song one of the most depressing on the album? “What if I never love again?” she sings in the last line, and despite the moderate tempo of the piano accompaniment, this is one of the most tragic songs on the record.

The final song is ‘Sweetest Devotion’, and while some critics have lamented the change in tone and sudden break in the tear-jerking narrative, I like it. After all, this is meant to be Adele’s ‘happy’ album and her voice holds just as well when the beat is quicker. By the end of this album, you certainly need something to break the bleak depression you’ve fallen into around the time of ‘River Lea’ and this song, with its foot-tapping beat and Adele’s usual powerful vocals, is just what you need. It isn’t the best song on the album though, and it is not quite the powerful end to the album; the song just fades out and suddenly 25 is over.

“Can anyone except Adele make a reasonably upbeat song one of the most depressing on the album?”

Overall, the album must be called a success. Adele is once again the globe’s popstar infatuation. Whether it will have the unexpected success of 21 remains to be seen but Adele should be proud of this record. It is different, and perhaps it is only my obsession with ‘Someone Like You’ that left me slightly disappointed by the nature of some of the tracks. Adele knows only too well that the ballad is her best form, but nobody wants an album full of those, and she strikes a good balance between the old and new here.

25 might not surpass 21 but there is a sense Adele doesn’t need it to: she produces music because she wants to. This laidback Essex mum of one would absolutely love it if you enjoyed her record, and couldn’t care less if you didn’t.

Beth Rowland

Beth is currently listening to ‘Wilder Mind’ by Mumford and Sons

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Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham's IMPACT Magazine.

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