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Adele
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  • Adrian's Album Reviews |

    Adele

    Related Artists - Duffy, Alicia Keys, Leona Lewis
    Related Genres - Pop & Dance

    19 6 ( 2008 )
    Daydreamer / Best For Last / Chasing Pavements / Cold Shoulder / Crazy For You / Melt My Heart To Stone / First Love / Right As Rain / Make You Feel My Love / My Same / Tired / Hometown Glory

    We've still got Amy Winehouse, just about. Why do we need another one already? The press likes to create scenes around often disparate groups of artists to boost record sales. It's easier to market a scene than a bunch of individuals. Yet, Adele doesn't show the soul or inspiration that Winehouse is able to demonstrate. One suspects it's because she's normal. 'First Love' for example is a soft musical excersize allowing the vocals to come through. They do so, in a mannered and hookless fashion. It's instantly forgettable fare. With 'You Make Me Feel My Love' Adele offers no insights during the three and a half minutes this piano and strings decorated ballad provides. Well, there's nothing actively wrong with it, but there just isn't any genuine soul that even an ounce of rawness and roughness around the edges would provide. Amy Winehouse, if we must use the comparison we are invited to make by Adele's marketing people, can own a tune. Adele can't quite manage this yet. 'Crazy For You' is a funny song. Well, it makes me smile as Adele sings over acoustic guitar playing a pretty, jazzy pattern and Adele spells out that she's 'Crazy For You' through very clever lines. Her voice, whilst still sounding somewhat affected, singularly fails to annoy because her swoops and sweeps match the character of the lyric. Character! That's the key word, all new artists need to demonstrate an all important distinctive character.

    Often a tune pops up on the album that pricks your attention, the opening 'Daydreams' is very nice, for instance. Yet, ultimately, it doesn't keep jumping out at you. Inevitably, you put the album away, rarely to listen to it again. It's a cleaning up around the house album, something to put on that you don't really need to concentrate upon. On the otherhand, I can quite imagine a slanted window, large and letting glorious sunlight in your clean and white bedroom. You're layed on the bed, facing down, reading a book. It's a pleasant spring afternoon and 'Hometown Glory' by Adele comes on and you manage to be transported. Everything seems absolutely perfect for the four and a half minutes the song takes up. When it ends, you'll never be able to repeat the process, unfortunately. It's that kind of album, offering up talents and mini glories just the once. It's a first coat, rather than the finished article. Her voice needs to sound less mannered and more natural, her lyrics need to avoid cliches. She needs to perform upbeat fare more often, tunes such as 'Cold Shoulder' which almost come across like an audition for Massive Attack. All in all, '19' is a mixed bag. Fans of Amy Winehouse can apply if they like, for everyone else, buy an Aretha Franklin album, won't you?

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    21 7 ( 2011 )
    Rolling in the Deep / Rumour Has It / Turning Tables / Don't You Remember / Set Fire to the Rain / He Won't Go / Take It All / I'll Be Waiting / One and Only / Lovesong / Someone Like You

    The first review was written when the album came out, rather than with any revisionist history type stuff going on. It was my open and honest response to listening to the record. Second time out, even despite of Adele now being arguably the biggest selling female artist on the entire planet, I shall attempt to do the same. She co-writes all of the songs and has chosen some smart people to work with her. An appearence at the brit-awards singing 'Someone Like You' has sent her into the stratosphere, although it's well worth remembering the album had sold a good few million copies already when that career defining event occured for Adele. Collaborators that have musically helped Adele here include OneRepublic guy Ryan Tedder, Paul Epworth, Frasier T. Smith, former Semicsonic man Dan Wilson, Jim Abbiss and even the mighty Rick Rubin. Money has been spent here and for those who feel all Adele actually needs is her voice and a Piano, somebody (maybe herself) clearly feel money and expensive productions are the way forwards. True, the majority of the tracks rely on relatively simple backing tracks but the very fact her live performance of 'Someone Like You' far outshines the recorded version may be a lesson worth paying attention to. Adele, we want to hear your voice in natural settings with real acoustics. I realise in this digital age that's not always easy to achieve but when on 'Turning Tables' even the stings manage to sound synthetic, alarms bells ring.. Also, in the midst of all the current hyperbole regarding Adele, even from the serious press, it's important to know that you don't have to feel you must like her. Whilst the BBC described '21' as "Simply stunning", the Music Fix blog described it as "No fun at all".

    Musically '21' is more retro soul, carrying on from '19'. A few tracks do go slightly more uptempo, particularly and suprisingly the dance-tinged electro of 'Rumour Has It', easily the most musically adventurous track on an album that largely relies on slow to mid-tempo ballads. Modern pop-soul, Adele can clearly belt out a tune yet so can Alicia Keys and Alicia arguably has a better voice and can actually play her own piano at the same time. So, is Adele a great songwriter/vocalist? Well, she's a decent vocalist for sure, although the gritty/raspy tone in her voice present during every single track can annoy at times. Still, calling Adele a great songwriter is like calling Alison Moyet a great songwriter. We need to realise although Adele can write simple, clear and emotive lyrics, the musical side of things isn't her bag. 'Take It All' is a highlight for me lyrically, very easy to grasp emotions and the backing vocals, real soul backing, adds enormously. 'I'll Be Waiting' has some funky bass lines, lead single 'Rolling In The Deep' is pure Amy Whinehouse retro soul, enjoyable enough chart fare. Her collaborators of course provide the musical backing, so the differences between 'Rumour Has It' produced and co-written by Ryan Tedder, and the eighties style power ballad 'Set Fire To The Rain' written with Fraser T Smith (who has worked with Taio Cruz, Tinchy Stryder, Keane, Craig David and Beyonce) are night and day. Variety is a good thing one might say, but you wonder how much of Adele is present in the melodies and song arrangements as opposed to her contributing purely lyrically and vocally?

    It's very sunny outside today and '21' is a perfect album you might think for a relaxing Sunday at home sat on the balcony or in the garden. It's a mood album and this middle of the road trying to please everybody feel '21' gives out won't actually please everybody, because where is the edge? Where are the mistakes? Mistakes in music make it all the more human and whilst Adele may well be an average, down to earth, humble personality - the production of her records take away from all of that by offering nothing for her voice to work against, rather than simply 'roll along' with.

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    25 7 ( 2011 )
    Hello / Send My Love (To Your New Lover) / I Miss You / When We Were Young / Remedy / Water Under The Bridge / River Lea / Love In The Dark / Million Years Ago / All I Ask / Sweetest Devotion

    Twelve million copies sold in only a single month? Yes, Adele is back, returning with worldwide number one single 'Hello'. 'Hello' features lyrics, vocals and drums by Adele (apparently!) with producer and co-writer Greg Kurstin responsible for bass, guitar, piano and keyboards. Kurstin produces and co-writes two other songs on this eleven track album - the next most prolific collaborator being Florence And The Machine co-writer and producer Paul Epworth who contributes to 'I Miss You' and closing 'Sweetest Devotion'. 'I Miss You' is the first clunker after a generally strong start with the torch song 'Hello' and the strong melodic strands of the musically upbeat 'Send My Love (To Your New Lover)'. 'I Miss You' in terms of construction and musical performance sounds like a Florence Welch album track and despite a reasonably strong Adele vocal, probably would have worked better as a Florence And The Machine track, all things told. Adele can still belt out a vocal, mind. The song's chorus is one you can picture the Glastonbury festival crowds waving around their smartphones to during a dark English summer night. 'I Miss You' ultimately is a minute or so too long at nearly six minutes, and overly repetitive.

    Album highlight 'When We Were Young' is genuinely spine-chilling. I'm not a fan of Adele as such, but objectively can at least appreciate her vocal talents and some of the songs produced in her name. It would take a cold-heart to not be affected on some level to this nostalgic, gospel tinged stunner. She turns in a good lyrical phrase at times here "Let me photograph you in this light / In case it is the last time / That we might be exactly like we were". 'When We Were Young' has been scheduled to be the follow-up single to 'Hello', yet thanks to download sales has already charted top thirty in the UK and sold 150,000 copies as an album download track in the US. The songs that immediately follow this highlight on the album however simply pale in comparison, Adele by numbers with the Piano led 'Remedy' and not even b-side or bonus track quality with 'Water Under The Bridge' . 'River Lea' is better, not quite 'Rolling In The Deep' style, but uptempo all the same and fieryly passionate. Is there a split between those that like the Adele ballads and those that yean for Adele to produce a full-album of uptempo, contemporary stuff ala 'Rolling In The Deep'? It would appear so, and it seems '25' tried to cater for both camps, but the slower to mid-tempo tunes are generally of better quality. 'Love In The Dark' may be lyrically clunky at times, but all you need sometimes is her voice, Piano and a string-section.

    'Million Years Ago' is a welcome stylistic diversion from either of the aforementioned camps, a Spanish flavoured acoustic led number. The closing 'Sweetest Devotion' for an entirely unknown, left-field reason suddenly had me thinking of when Pink Floyd released 'Wish You Were Here' to follow-up the bememoth that was 'Dark Side Of The Moon'. For some, 'Wish You Were Here' wasn't different enough and for others, it was too different. '25' by Adele almost falls into that camp. It benefits actually from not having too many obvious single-type songs, although pretty much any track sang by Adele could be a success commercially. Commerce isn't always the point - 'Sweetest Devotion' reminds me of U2. It sounds stadium, and the plans for a world tour will have been made well in advance. What was I trying to say? Well, '25' ultimately is satisfying as a stand-alone album, you don't have to even have heard '19' or '21', which seems like an entirely obvious thing to say - but to some it's hard to consider something new following up a loved record (be it 'Dark Side' Floyd fans, or '21' Adele fans) as being able to stand or fall on its own merits. In summary? Despite faults, despite being compositionally somewhat uneven in quality - '25' stands.

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    this page last updated 30/01/15


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