REVIEW: Adele, 21

Okay, I know this album came out a while back, but I didn’t get it until I was out in Olathe, KS for training with Trans Am. That is why it took me so long to post about it.

So why did I delay in getting the album? After all, I’d heard Adele’s singles on local radio station Fly 92 for some time. The reason is quite simple: when I first heard her, I thought of Amy Winehouse…and I could not STAND Amy Winehouse! Actually I think what bothered me most about her wasn’t necessarily her music or drunken antics; it was the hype about her. I am always cautious about any music act that is suddenly thrust upon me in that manner. They acted like she was reinventing the wheel, but all I heard was a knockoff of every soul singer from the ’60s.

Then when I heard Adele’s song “Rolling in the Deep,” I thought, “Oh great, first we have Amy Winehouse as a ’60s soul imitator, and now we have to put up with Amy Winehouse imitators?”

Then, a few months later, she released “Set Fire to the Rain” as a single, and I knew there was something special and different about this young woman’s music. The more I heard the song, the more I realized she had won me over. So, in November 2012, I bought the album.

I’ve been obsessed with it ever since.

The album starts out with the aforementioned “Rolling in the Deep,” which used to offend me as a Winehouse clone. However, after hearing it with fresh ears and a new appreciation for her music, it doesn’t bother me anymore. “Rumor Has It” follows, which I’m not quite as fond of because I think her voice is underused on the track. (The majority of it consists of her singing the words “rumor has it” over and over.) After that comes “Turning Tables.” On this song Adele croons, rasps, and soars through three and a half minutes of emotional turmoil.

Then we get to track four, “Don’t You Remember,” which for me is the hidden gem of the album. Adele aches, and I ache with her. Her voice soars, and I soar with it. When it comes crashing back down to a whisper, I listen attentively to every word. She holds these sustained notes with this intense vibrato that makes my insides tremble, and she nearly chokes on the heartache her words convey. This song is proof positive that you don’t always have to look to an album’s singles to find the best tracks.

Having said that, a strong argument could be made that “Set Fire to the Rain” is indeed the best song on the album. The song builds to a giant crescendo where it seems that Adele’s voice will bring the walls down around you.

In all fairness, the album isn’t perfect. From track six on, it has some dragging moments. All the songs are about fractured relationships. (That’s because Adele wrote most of them following the break-up of her own relationship.) However, this wouldn’t be a bad thing in and of itself if there was some variety to the songs. Most are mid-tempo or slow ballads. That’s why track nine (“I’ll Be Waiting”) is such a nice break: its uptempo, funky beat breathes life back into the album and helps carry the listener on through its concluding tracks: an interesting take on the Cure’s “Lovesong” and the powerful closer “Someone Like You.” This tune reminds me of Roy Orbison’s “It’s Over,” not necessarily in style or sound but because on that tune, Roy made you feel like the end of a relationship was the end of the world. Adele accomplishes the same thing here, and she is nowhere near the same age Roy was when he recorded his tune.

I think maybe that is what impresses me about Adele the most: she is so young, but that voice…that beautiful, majestic, wailing, whispering, towering, vibrating, sexy voice…possesses the experience of someone twice her age. She sings like she has lived it all, every last pained syllable. It’s so rare to have a voice of that power. This is the kind of voice that could bring you to tears no matter what the subject matter is. She could sing about doing laundry, and it would make me cry.

To summarize: please don’t let my minor complaints about subject matter convince you otherwise. This is one of the best albums I’ve heard in years…and I mean that even though the Pumpkins released OCEANIA in June 2012. If you want to hear the real deal, forget about shit like Lady Gaga and Kesha. I think it’s time we promoted someone who has more style than substance, instead of the opposite.

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About Steve Grogan

I am 40 years old, divorced, and a father of four kids. I am a practitioner of a self-defense system called wing chun kung fu. My other hobbies include writing, playing guitar, reading, watching movies, and listening to music. Recently I have gotten back into fitness, and this time I am DETERMINED to get the washboard abs...whether my metabolism will cooperate with me or not! The purpose of this blog is to write not only about my hobbies, but also about whatever crosses my mind, whether it is something I don't understand or something that aggravates me. So join me as I indulge my tendency to think too much about topics that don't usually cross anyone else's mind!
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