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Adele – 25

November 22, 2015

There are not many mega pop stars that I followed from day one, but Adele is one of them. Her debut album 19 was great and “Chasing Pavements” was an amazing single (and the fact she invented a clever phrase was a triple bonus). 21 was even better and she became the biggest and brightest star in the pop world. People loved her music so much they actually paid for it.   She has made her fans wait 4 years for the follow-up – this is one of the most anticipated releases in a long time. It sold a record setting 2.3 million albums in the first three days.

I love Adele, but it is annoying she is not streaming the album and she issued the vinyl LP without a download. Oh well, that just forces me to listen on my home system and fully appreciate the sounds vs. listening in the car or on Spotify through buds. This is big music that deserves to be listened to in the proper context.

I did listen to the pre-album single and LP opening song “Hello” before buying the LP and I thought it was a Lionel Richie song.   The song did not grab me at first,  but on repeated listens it has grown on me.  When I bought the LP and looked at the liner notes I was surprised it was not a Ritchie song. I pulled out Can’t Slow Down just to make sure. It is a different song but clearly inspired by the Richie original.  Ultimately this is a great single – a worthy calling card for the rest of the album.

“Send My Love (To Your New Lover) has a Radiohead like guitar riff, which is a pretty cool way to frame Adele.

“I Miss You” is a nice contemporary sounding song with echoey Phil Collins drums. It has just a touch of funk and risk.

One of the things I like about Adele’s voice is that it conventionally pretty, but it has just a touch of a growl.  Her production values are epic, yet not over powering. The focus is always on the voice.  “When We Were Young” is a great example of what I am talking about. This is my favorite song on the album.

“Remedy” closes side A with a simple voice and piano arrangement.  Adele sings her ass off and you don’t need anything more. Her voice is an orchestra.

“Water Under The Bridge” open side B and is one of the more anonymous songs on the album. It is catchy but it seems a bit light weight for Adele. Over produced and it already sounds dated (seems like she is trying to be Taylor Swift – a move that is unnecessary).

“River Lea” is a Danger Mouse production. Adele and DM are a pretty good duo: his cinematic production values and Adele’s epic voice. You can imagine this song behind the end credits of a great movie and  you would be Shazaming it because it sounded so foreign and familiar at the same time. This song begs for more Adele/Danger Mouse collaborations.

“Love The Dark” is a simple piano and strings arrangement that allows Adele to shine on the top. A real showcase for her.

“Million Years Ago” has a beautiful stark arrangement-just Adele and guitar (with some other subtle shading). It has a very retro feel to me. This could be from a 60s chanteuse.

Adele does a second simple arrangement in  row (just voice and piano) with “All I Ask.”

The album concludes with “Sweet Devotion” – a bang. This is a big room anthem.

So does it live up to the hype and is it worthy of earning the all time one week album sales record?   Nope, but no album could live up to that hype. This is a solid album and a worthy follow-up to 21. Adele does not sell out, she just does her thing (which just happens to monetize really well). I like the record but there is nothing on it that blows you away like “Rolling In The Deep.”  I like that it has a diversity of styles but holds together. Ultimately it is Adele’s voice that defines her – she could sing a telephone book.  Amazingly her cowriters/producers don’t get in the way, but properly elevate her. In the end this album appeals to me more than Taylor Swift’s 1989. It is a more grown up album and is fits better into my baby boomer aesthetics. It is gimmick free – just a great voice showcased.

Again it does annoy me this album is not streaming and even worse the vinyl did not come with a download (especially without a streaming option).   It comes off as a money grab and disrespectful of the fans.  It leaves just enough of a bad taste in my mouth to keep me from totally falling for the album (and frankly it just won’t be convenient enough to fall for).


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