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Review: Adele, “21”

March 25, 2011

Anyone who has talked to me in the last month has probably (without a doubt) heard me rhapsodizing about Adele’s debut album, “19”. It was sultry, full, rich and vivacious- I can not say anything else on it because I’ll go on all day.

So, obviously I was chuffed to get her sophomore album “21” at Barnes and Noble for $9.99.

I loaded it up- hit play. First track is her wildly successful single “Rolling in the Deep”, which I love for its intense, deep vocals, bluessy backdrop and compelling lyrics. She’s at her kick ass best here, laying it out for the listener with vocal precision that reminds me more of Aretha than Amy Winehouse to whome she’s frequently compared.

Tracks two, three, four and five(Rumor Has It, Turning Tables and Don’t You Remember, Set Fire To The Rain, respectively) explode with emotion. Rumor Has It has angsty Temptations-style beats, an angry devil-may-care attitude and fantastic percussion. In Turning Tables, Adele is nearly defeated, her voice low and mournful with a twinge of regret that hits you deep in the chest. Don’t You Remember is laced with abandoning, driving melodies layered over a sparce, haunting piano line, letting her voice and her pain pour through the speakers. The listener is captivated by Adele’s confusion and anger in Set Fire To The Rain and is taken on a journey through her mind with the lilting string section and her seemingly far away voice.

Track six, He Won’t Go, is another show-tuneish song that showcases Adele’s renewed will to save her relationship. Standing alone, this is one of my more favorite tracks, but at this point in the album, this listener is getting irritated with this guy that has beaten the metaphorical crap out of us up until now. If she had inserted even one uplifting song in this position, the album would not drag the listener down so seriously in the last half.

I’ll Be Waiting should have switched places with track six- its the upbeat, school house rock reminescent that we needed just a few minutes before. The lyrics are still abysmilly depressing, but at least there’s a great chior of praise singing background girls and motown piano.

In track eight, we find a great jazz masterpiece, soulful, sparse One and Only. Her voice shoots higher than it does the whole album and the sound is good on her. Hopefully on her third album she’ll work more with her upper register- I can tell she is not as comfortable with her head voice as her signature alto, but its plaintative and pleading- exactly how it should be.

It is unfortunate that these lovely tracks must be followed up with an elevator inspired cover of The Cure’s Lovesong. The vaguely twanging guitar seems forced and overly tropical. I am an avid cover listener and I generally adore them, but this belongs on that awkward sirius satellite channel that plays acoustic versions of punk songs… I think its called ‘Coffee House’…

Thank God that she didn’t decide to end the album with Lovesong, but on a particularly high note with Someone Like You. Again, Adele’s voice is allowed to soar over the resonating, lone piano melody in the background- she might as well have been singing this a capella for all the support the piano lends. Standing by herself, with the strength of her voice, and by that, her convictions, leap from the track and wrap themselves around our brains. This song shows her voice to the best it has been on the album. Adele releases and lets her voice convey every bit of pain she is feeling and suddenly the melancholy middle part of the album is exactly how it should be. The listener needs to fight through the mediocre tracks to get to the truly transcendental Someone Like You.

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