Adele – 21
A few years ago the British music scene was bursting with the retro sound of Amy Winehouse, Duffy and Adele Adkins.
While Winehouse rather quickly moved from the music press to the gossip mags, Duffy and Adele both did incredibly well with their debut albums.
This time round, it’s the same two women we rely on, to bring us the gritty soul of the sixties (although, it has to be said, Amy Winehouse has reportedly finished her third album, so let’s see what she can come up with). Duffy’s Endlessly (2010) has become almost too ”Duffy-esque”, but the years that has passed since Adele’s 19 has indeed been very kind to the now 22 year old singer. Her voice is brilliant as always, and the songs are very strong, great melodies, and fantastic vocals.
First single Rolling In The Deep has already had massive airplays and one can easily understand why. Adele’s voice soars and rages with heartbreak, the kind that you get excellent songs from. The beat is so cleverly used, it’s the first thing you notice – along with the handclaps, the gospel like backing, and of course, that voice.
Rumour Has It is first of all a solid song, it ticks the right boxes; you’ve got the upbeat verses, the repetitive chorus and the very clever twist of the lyric; The song starts out with a complaint, the narrator has been left behind, but she takes this in her stride, she’s confident her love will come back because ”rumour has it she ain’t got your love anymore”. Next up, she tells of how they’re still together, and that ”rumour has it I’m the one you’re leaving her for”. The clincher comes in the last verse, after a slow bridge section, suggesting the narrator might be the one spreading these rumours, rumours that ”he’s the one I’m leaving you for”.
Next up is Turning Tables a straight up pop ballad, nothing too special. Don’t You Remember, on the other hand, is a powerful ballad, Adele singing about lost love like no one else, a theme she used for her debut, too, but when you get this many great songs out of it, I really don’t mind having a whole new album dedicated to the subject. She takes the blame for breaking up, but also tries to remind the person who left her what he’s missing. A ballad like this could quickly become too much of a cliché, but the thing that saves it, is Adele’s voice: it’s heartfelt, and so, you feel the pain she’s going through.
Set Fire To The Rain is another pop song on a grand scale, a belter that suits Adele so well, that you’re ready to forgive her for the slight let-down on the lyrics. Yes, they are still good, but she can do a lot better.
He Won’t Go has an 80’s sound to it, a strong, prominent beat, but somehow I feel she’s better off with something more melodic. The song is good, no doubt about it, the lyrics addressing the problem of staying in a relationship, because you’re scared that there might not be anything better out there, ”it this ain’t love, then what is?”.
Take It All — well, here we go again, the jilted lover, that doesn’t understand why she is so easy to leave behind, promising to change so he’ll come back. Yet again you can feel Adele’s pain through her voice, and the gospel backing along with the simple piano accompaniment, makes this a great ballad.
I’ll Be Waiting is amazingly enough, about the same subject as the previous song, although this one is more positive, Adele singing that she’ll ”be waiting for you when you’re ready to love me again”. The piano at the beginning has got a tinge of Elton John, in the good sense of the word, and it feels like she’s borrowed the rhythm from The Beta Band’s Dry The Rain, making it more upbeat in order for it to work for her, and boy does it work! It’s not one of the most outstanding songs on the album, but it’s still so very good.
One of the more memorable songs is this next one One And Only, a ballad, but with so much soul it’s a pleasure to put it on repeat. A song about taking chances in love, taking that extra leap and just go with your feelings. It’s got a positive vibe to it, a feeling that everything will be fine as long as they both admit to liking each other, Adele singing ”give me the chance to prove I am the one who can walk that mile” but making sure that there also is a sense of foreboding by adding ”until the end begins”. One wonders why she has to have a negative side to every love story, but then again, this whole album is a break up record, so you’ve got to be able to handle a fair portion of melancholy, sadness and bitterness.
Next up is the only cover on the album: The Cure’s Lovesong. Now, I doubt that there can be many people out there, still ignorant about her cover of Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love. They say ignorance is bliss, but not in this case; the song suits her like it was written for her. Not so this time around. The arrangement has been changed into some sort of acoustic, finger picking, flamingo style and that just doesn’t fit the song. Yes, it makes it softer and the lyrics come out more, but still, it’s not the best.
I’m glad then, that she has chosen to end the album on a high note, the glorious song Someone Like You with the best lyrics on the entire album, in my humble opinion. It’s impossible not to feel her pain, and I know it’s been said before, but this is what she does so well, what makes her ten times better that Duffy, and what makes this album so great: She’s got soul, and she bares it for everyone to see. It pains me, though, to say that the live version she did on Later… With Jools Holland is so much better than the version on the album. Halfway through the chorus she goes into a falsetto voice that just doesn’t work, whereas on the live recording, she belts it out, adding more soul than you thought possible.
So, yes, the album has it’s week spots, but overall, it’s a very successful second album, and one can only hope we don’t have to wait long for the next one.
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