Adele’s 25 blows past expectations

By Liam McGurl  @Liiiammm1996


It was starting to feel like a “Million Years Ago” since we last heard from London native Adele, but her powerful new installment, 25, has arrived and is, arguably, her most daring studio album yet.

While the soulful ballad “Hello” stays true to the album’s lyrical message of pain in heartbreak, it’s robust, wholesome sounds aren’t exactly a testament to the overall musicality of 25—which is No. 1 on Apple’s iTunes chart in 110 countries.

In contrast to Adele’s preceding records, 25 gives fans the full range of the 27-year-old singer’s talents.  From the underlying pop sentiments of “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” to the Latin feel of “Million Years Ago,” the album’s as unpredictable as it is sonically satisfying.  In essence, it’s the model comeback album—and will likely help Adele reclaim her chart-topping, Grammy-snagging status.

Not surprisingly, the album sold at least 2.5 million copies in the United States in its first week—which, according to the New York Times is “… the highest weekly sales for any album since at least 1991…”

While the 2016 Grammy Awards are scheduled for Feb. 15—and that seems centuries away— it’s likely Adele will be taking home the awards in her nominated categories.  It’s all about timing, and with a new album and singles leading up to the award show, she’ll likely be the focus of the red carpet event—both on and off stage.  Let’s be honest, though, it’s not that big of a surprise considering the 2006 BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology graduate has already received 86 musical arts-based awards out of 168 total nominations.

As expected, the vocal caliber of the “Rolling In The Deep” singer on 25 met both anxious fan and critic expectations, but her noteworthy lyricality on the installment was the main supporter of her impactful trills and riffs.

Adele sings of yearning for renewed love in “I Miss You,” exclaiming, “I love the way your body moves/ Towards me from across the room/ Brushing past my every groove/ No one has me like you do.”  It’s a change from her previous content, opening up about more vulnerable, uncanny dimensions of love: regret and reminiscing.

Her usual sentiments of heartbreak line the record’s tracks, still, but she’s honest about the pain in a new way.

“When We Were Young”—a serious contender for a second single—moves us through the motions of hoping for a revived love life, while “Water Under the Bridge” takes listeners to that uncomfortable place of accepting failed love and hoping for peaceful closure.

“All I Ask”—the second to last track on the record—is a musical plea for that same sort of peaceful closure.  As the track’s chorus closes with the lines “It matters how this ends/Cause what if I never love again?” listeners are struck with relatability internalized as goosebumps.  It’s essentially the “breakup experience” in a single line—acceptance of one’s romantic standings but hoping to move to a place of forgiveness and progression past the pain.

While Adele’s content has remained consistent—and time out of the spotlight hasn’t changed her attraction to love ballads and breakup tunes—she’s used a variety of unexpected, and intentional, instrumentals to support her commanding vocals.

Light guitar strumming follows Adele’s soft vocals at the early formation of “Sweetest Devotion,” while pulsating drumming carries the track’s forceful chorus.  Likewise, classical piano carries the consistent dynamics of “Remedy.”

Adele’s captivating choices in accompaniment elevate her already moving vocals to a place of euphoria that acapella rarely meets.  Aside from her undeniable vocal gift, Adele’s lyrical genius and appropriate selection of instrumentation will likely carry 25 to record-breaking numbers of awards and continued positive critical acclamation.

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