British singer/songwriter Adele returns with the follow up to her debut album, 19, with another double digit titled album, 21. Even though she may have added only tacked on two to the previous outing, I had the chance to review what this mathematical addition translated to musically- and on the whole, it is more of the same from Adele. More well crafted songs, more pop sensibility and more well delivered vocals.
Adele hasn’t lost her touch in creating memorable, anthemic pop choruses. Nowhere is this more evident than on the opening track and lead single ‘Rolling In The Deep.’ Incorporating driving drums, chugging guitars and a huge vocal, the refined production is quite sparse but it’s nice that way, as it leaves the track sounding more open and lets the song breathe. The backing vocal reminds me of something The Ronettes might have come up with.
‘Rumour Has It’ constantly changes its sonic landscape, sounding slightly dissonant in parts. The vocal harmonies it is built on are fantastic accompanied by very healthy sounding hand claps in parts, that add to it’s organic feel and the bridge section is particularly well crafted.
On ‘Set Fire To The Rain,’ Adele leans more towards an indie rock and roll sound in the instrumentation and her delivery of the vocal on the chorus, which is once again big and anthemic.
‘He Won’t Go’ brings a Hip Hop/Soul flavour and the opening in particular sounds like the opening to ‘Tell Him’ by Lauryn Hill in another guise. It has quite minimal production throughout with the harp and bass work sticking out as being particularly ear catching.
‘I’ll Be Waiting’ and ‘One and Only’ have an Aretha Franklin vibe; the former with it’s huge vocal sound on the chorus, rolling piano and boxy snare, the latter with its raw and dry vocal sound, organ and gospel choir. The section where Adele sings ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ is sublime and reminds of another song which I couldn’t quite put my finger on. ‘Take It All’ stays in old Soul territory with just the right amount of pop ballad influence to make it have the crossover appeal. The chord progression and melody are very well written.
I would imagine that Adele’s songs are written from the ground up, just her and a guitar or piano and then all the production elements and instrumentation are added later. This album, much like the previous, shows us Adele’s ability to write strong songs, especially in the Pop domain, were not a fluke last time round.
‘Turning Tables’ is a very well written, emotional song featuring piano and a wonderfully touching string arrangement as the only accompaniment to Adele’s voice. The down-tempo ‘Don’t You Remember’ is equally well written, however I felt the vocal performance was not captured as well on this track. Her cover of The Cure‘s ‘Lovesong’ highlights the extremely well written track with sparse production, allowing the song to really shine through.
The standout on this album for me is the marvelously constructed ‘Someone Like You.’ Talking of a lost love, this an extremely touching track with a vocal performance that makes the narrative almost tangible and, towards the end of the track, has you hanging on the edge of your seat due to Adele’s perfect conveyance of all the emotion wrapped up in the lyrics. It really captures the experience of the story and puts it across in both a credible and incredible fashion.
It’s so pleasing to know such voices still exist among us and that they continue to get the love and recognition they deserve, without having to resort to watered-down pop rubbish led by production. All in all a refreshing album as Adele manages to retain her credentials as a powerful vocalist and songwriter.