Mar 31, 2011 Web Exclusive
If Adele ever has a successful relationship, that could be the end of her musical career. Luckily for her listeners, she seems really bad at picking partners. A terrible relationship gave her material for her critically acclaimed, award-winning debut, 19. A good—but now ended—relationship has given her its successor, the already critically acclaimed and likely soon to be award-winning 21.
Regardless of the album titles—which are the ages Adele was when she was writing the songs—she still sounds like an ancient soul, emphasis on the soul. 21 opens with its two strongest tracks: the storming, blues-infested rager “Rolling in the Deep” and the thrashing, Deep South-inflected “Rumour Has It.” These two are the soundtrack of every commercial, trailer, and (insert item to be promoted) on television right now. Yet somehow every time one of them comes on, you are gripped with the urge to jump up, point at wherever the song is coming from and yell out, “go on girl!”
This participatory effect is a large part of 21, which bears the marks of Adele’s extended time in the United States. Exposure to the likes of Wanda Jackson and Lady Antebellum has given Adele a country bent and a genuine understanding of the blues. These styles suit her retro-soul voice perfectly. Throaty and bruised but honeyed, Adele’s chords crack at all the perfect moments. Her lengthy list of collaborators (Eg Whte, Jim Abbiss, Fraser T. Smith, Dan Wilson, Ryan Tedder) and two producers (Rick Rubin, Paul Epworth) focus on this aspect, leaving the music as a backdrop, allowing Adele’s bold vocal prowess its full rein.
It’s not all fist-pumpers on 21. The album has its share of billowing piano-driven ballads over which Adele belts out just as forcefully. On the barely contained “Turning Tables,” Adele lets forth her formidable lungpower. And her minimalist rendition of The Cure’s “Lovesong” gives it the tear-jerking catch in the throat Robert Smith couldn’t quite manage. Here’s hoping that if Adele ever finds true love, she doesn’t lose her ability to so convincingly channel heartbreak. (www.adele.tv)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 8/10