Adele – 25 Review
1. “Hello” (4:55)
2. “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” (3:43)
3. “I Miss You” (5:48)
4. “When We Were Young” (4:50)
5. “Remedy” (4:05)
6. “Water Under the Bridge” (4:00)
7. “River Lea” (3:45)
8. “Love in the Dark” (4:45)
9. “Million Years Ago” (3:47)
10. “All I Ask” (4:31)
11. “Sweetest Devotion” (4:11)
If it seems like years since Adele became an indelible part of the pop music landscape, it has been. More specifically, it’s been four years since the British diva with the incredibly powerful and soulful voice released her sophomore album 21, which dominated sales charts and pop airwaves for an unprecedented amount of time in the modern pop era. 21 announced the arrival of a new influence on pop music and it’s certainly had an impact, bringing a new sense of depth to the genre and dealing a major blow to the prevalent mindless dance-pop that has dominated the early 2010s.
That’s not an exaggeration, either. Sure, you can still hear club bangers all over the radio but Adele’s vulnerability and throwback vocal stylings opened the way for a different type of pop to rise. Even the likes of Taylor Swift found reason to pay attention; 1989’s heightened sophistication can be credited not only to Swift’s maturation but the impact that Adele helped bring back.
Following her Oscar-winning contribution to the 007 film Skyfall in late 2012, Adele stepped back from the industry to spend some years focusing on her personal life. It was a wise move, preventing her from becoming too overexposed. But it also gave her time to grow and find new avenues in her life to write and sing about. Motherhood and another three years followed, during which she has crafted her latest album, the megahit in the making that is 25. While the album’s ability to match the phenomenal 28 million worldwide albums sold may be in question, there’s no doubt that the past few years has done Adele some good and allowed her to craft a worthy follow-up to 21.
Much like 21 represented the angst and drama of that becoming an adult and experiencing heartbreak at that age, 25 is an album built around the growth another four years grants you. There’s still plenty of room for anguish and regret, such as on mega-hit first single “Hello.” With its swelling vocals and Adele’s powerful, weary vocals, it’s very much a song that carries that album’s themes forward into her latest set. But neither does it just replicate the likes of “Someone Like You”; Greg Kurstin’s orchestral production adds some weight to the proceedings, evoking greatness on its own. And then there’s tracks like “Million Years Ago,” which strips things down to a folksy French ballad guitar sound underneath the singer’s old soul of regret. These songs of loneliness and being other are just as relevant at twenty-five as they are at twenty-one and Adele finds new ways to express those feelings with these expanding influences.
However, it’s hardly all sad songs and mourning love’s loss. That’s quickly evident with “Send My Love (To Your New Lover),” a song that feels like the last thing you might expect to hear on an Adele album. With pop hitmaker Max Martin at the production board, Adele alternates between guitar-strummed verses and a peppy, percussion-heavy chorus in a statement of triumphantly moving on. “We gotta let go of all of our ghosts/We both know we ain’t kids no more,” she sings over hand-claps and pop beats for a pleasant second entry. It’s followed up by “I Miss You,” which is not in fact about lost love but instead stands as a sultry, rather sexy song about late-night passion.
The family she has started since 21 also bring inspiration with “Remedy,” a song to her son that is smartly written in a way to apply more universally for those of us without children. With the stylings of a modern R&B piano ballad that betrays a Billy Joel influence, she stands protective over the song’s subject. More modern influences also take hold on one of the highlights, “Water Under the Bridge.” The midtempo flutters and hip-pop beat make it a very likely hit single, and it would be as welcome of one as the less radio-friendly “River Lea.” “Lea” is a winner of song-writing experience coupled with a pop gospel arrangement and one of Adele’s most soulful vocal deliveries on the LP.
While it’s very nearly a perfect return, there is one track that, while fine stuff on its own, does sound a bit too similar to what we’ve heard before in “Love in the Dark.” Her vocal work is as heartfelt as ever, but the similarity of the opening to Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games” doesn’t help it out and lyrics like “There is so much space between us/Maybe we’re already defeated” are a bit too generic for her standards. It might be a perfectly good track on any other album, but it does stick out a bit as being under the bar here. Luckily it’s the only one, and even the Bruno Mars-written “All I Ask,” which is as subtle as an Andrew Lloyd Webber showstopper, hits all the right notes.
Standout Tracks: “Hello,” “Send My Love (To Your New Lover),” “Water Under the Bridge,” “River Lea”