Review: Adele’s ’25’ a master class in authentic pop

View Caption Hide Caption
Is it just us, or does Adele look rather Scully-like in this photo?
Is it just us, or does Adele look rather Scully-like in this photo?

Is it just us, or does Adele look rather Scully-like in this photo?


Here’s the short review of Adele’s “25.”

It will restore your faith in music.

Hyperbolic? Maybe.

But (here comes the long version) the album, which officially arrived worldwide today, is going to break sales records, have fans drooling in anticipation of a tour and propel social media into a frenzy of commentary for good reason.

No one does authentic quite as well as Adele. She’s a beautiful woman, but she (thankfully) doesn’t resemble what’s thrust in our faces every day as the unattainable ideal. She might only be 27 (the album’s title is a reflection of the year in her life that it represents), but she sings of regret and nostalgia and fear of the future with palpable melancholy and relatable uncertainty.

For the long-awaited return since “21” catapulted her into a reluctant global superstar, Adele recruited marquee names including Max Martin, OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder and UGA alum Danger Mouse for production and co-writing. But it’s obvious from her tone, her definitive delivery, her assuredness in her lyrics, that Adele is the one who runs this show.

She explores her pop side in different ways than exhibited on “Rumour Has It” and “Rolling in the Deep” with “Send My Love,” an offering from Martin, the wizard behind smashes for everyone from ‘N Sync to Katy Perry. The lush song sounds like Enya with a pulse and Adele’s layered background vocals provide an airy feel even though she’s again singing while looking over her shoulder (“We got to let go of our ghosts…we both know we ain’t kids no more.”).

The follow-up to “25”’s record-breaking lead single, the ethereal, don’t-even-try-it-at-karaoke “Hello,” “When We Were Young,” possesses a melody reminiscent of Elton John at his best while spotlighting Adele’s vocal gymnastics. Her voice dips and then scorches in the same verse, and the note she hits at song’s end would make even Kelly Clarkson bow down.

But the jewel among the uptempo songs is “Water Under the Bridge,” a slice of soulful pop with a killer hook. It sneaks up on you, but once it’s embedded, forget about dislodging it from your brain.

Introspective ballads remain Adele’s specialty, but their ubiquity does hinder the album’s pacing to the point that a shadow of sameness starts to creep in.

Of them, “Remedy,” co-written and produced by Tedder, is the weepie most likely to wear out the replay button. A song of comfort and tenderness, its sparse piano backdrop places the emphasis firmly on lyrics that echo a certain Bob Dylan song that Adele covered on her first album, especially when she sings, “When the world seems so cruel, and your heart makes you feel like a fool, I promise you will see that I will be your remedy.”

Where other artists would be tempted to gunk up the song with strings and swelling instrumentation, Adele needs only her voice – though she does allow some orchestral maneuvers on “Love in the Dark,” a song that is pretty enough, but sounds like something we’ve already heard from her many times.

As well, her co-write with Bruno Mars, “All I Ask,” is a theatrical chest thumper that Celine Dion would probably insert into her Vegas show tomorrow night if she could – especially given the song’s dramatic key change and escalating vocals.

Much more gratifying is “Million Years Ago,” a wistful lament coated with Adele’s smoky tones that are a beautiful complement to the gentle, Latin-tinged guitar that drives the song.

“I miss the air, I miss my friends, I miss my mother…Life was a party to be thrown, but that was a million years ago…I feel like my life is flashing by and all I can do is watch and cry,” she sings. If the song is indeed autobiographical, it’s striking in its candidness.

Adele closes the 11-track album with “Sweetest Devotion,” a rousing singalong designed for arm swaying in concert. The uplifting song isn’t frilly or glossy – just real.

Would you expect anything less? A-

Follow the AJC Music Scene on Facebook and Twitter.

View Comments 7