Hello? Well, if you didn’t know, Adele’s latest album, 25, dropped yesterday. Everybody’s anticipating this release, and even I have been for the past few years. While the tones may be different than on 21, and this album not really having the singles of old like Rolling in the Deep, it's going to be quite a length review. So sit tight and grab a hot coffee as you listen over and over again.
Been Here Before
If uprising crescendos and gigantic climaxes don’t get you on your feet, you clearly haven’t been paying attention. 4 years ago, 21 by Adele was released garnering praise and sales all-around. Rolling in the Deep, Set Fire to the Rain, Someone Like You became instant classics within 2 years, and she followed that up with Skyfall in 2012. Adele has not only hit the ground running as quick as she can, but she’s never really been the kind to breakout into something else. With 21 being the break-up album, 25 was the make-up album, she said during an interview with Billboard.
I never really got into the Adele craze, but I was for sure swooned and won over after multiple listens of that revenge-twisted, high-octane rush of Rolling in the Deep with the percussions coming together to provide the burst of energy that became the jam of 2011 and 2012. It was the hook that pulled close and never released, only dragging by the heels and looking for more prisoners. Adele has not just been an icon for the past few years, but has pretty much made herself to be a living legacy.
If anything, Hello is the proof that Adele is still a success despite the barren years where she’s released nothing, only to be flooded with views when the music video released less than a month ago. Fans were excited again, for good faith and for good reason. After what we’ve heard from 21 and Hello, it’s time that we got an album from the likes off those that can pull the amazing notes live as well. Let’s roll on the album review.
25 is a blockbuster record from start to finish, featuring Adele once again belting the tracks as if it was a simple task. Many of the songs are a bridge in the gap from her previous record to her latest one, and definitely sees her back in the comfort zone for the majority of the album. I see many people criticising Adele for being too ‘safe’, but in a sense, she's a soul and pop singer, not a pop star. There was no need for additional change in the lush scenery when what you have is ample enough, but I do understand the concerns.
In addition to the point, many of the tracks are just back-to-back piano ballads and does bog down the album a little bit, but these songs offer relativity and comfort in it. Not once did I feel the album feeling like it would've been better in somebody else's hands nor feel better with a better production in place. The likes of Max Martin and The Smeezingtons do a great job in mixing and trying to get the album to sound cohesive on a whole. There are other producers as well such as Greg Kurstin who also writes on most of the songs, helping to keep the album sound like a unit.
Due to most of the tracks sounding a little too dull in nature, the album lacked more upbeat tracks such as Send My Love and Sweetest Devotion (Water Under the Bridge if I was pushing it a little). I do agree considering the second half of the album doesn't really live up to the first half.
With 25, I can see Adele not pushing the limits a little further, but understand why. The pacing, less upbeat songs, the mixing and her voice sounding different sometimes when the tracks shift, I feel were true negatives and the album would've been a masterpiece with the changes to it. So without it, what does it mean?
Growing Up and Growing Older
There are many who regard 21 as the best album from Adele’s discography, and I'm pretty sure 25 may have just overthrown it. After discarding a few tracks with artists like Sia and Ryan Tedder, the latter who also wrote Remedy, it seemed like Adele picked the ones that matched the tone of the album. And I can't complain with the final cut, especially after multiple listens and taking my time with the album.
The minuscule problems that exist are a small fraction of a bigger picture: a wealth of wonder and emotion from Adele that strikes like a thunderbolt. There's not many artists that can appear both captivating and heartwarming while feeling truly genuine with every word that they sing. The emotional knockout punch of Hello where Adele reminisces of her fault that a relationship went awry and A Million Years where she looks back on what could've been had she “lived life a little longer,” drawing acoustic guitars in the background with a tear-inducing chorus that weeps of regret and disappointment. The whole album is more than just a rollercoaster ride, it's an experience. When you reach the end, you start to wonder what could've been without Adele's presence in the past few years.
The overwhelming number of producers and writers may scare of a number of fans who aren't familiar with Adele, but for the most part, prove to be a great addition to the tracks. Max Martin, who recently worked with Taylor Swift amongst many other artists, produced Send Your Love - an upbeat, faster paced guitar track that is groovy and instantly reminds of Adele's debut album, 19 - and he worked wonders with that song. It feels familiar to Swift listeners as well, along with sounding quite close to Lorde’s Royals. The song is probably my favourite off the album as it sounds unique and is a breath of fresh air from the back-to-back piano ballads that critics and listeners are complaining about.
Majority of the tracks are written by Adele and Greg Kurstin, along with credits of Ryan Tedder as mentioned among others. The lyrics of longing of the past, feeling sorry and showing remorse for her actions felt true and genuine as displayed on Hello, A Million Years and Water Under the Bridge.
The production prowess that Adele calls upon from the likes of Kurstin and The Smeezingtons (Bruno Mars and co.), which I commended above, delivers upon the subtle piano piece that appears beneath almost every track. Yes they do tend to overload during the chorus sometimes such as the bass and drums collapsing over each other on Water Under the Bridge, but others like River Lea produced by Danger Mouse (great artist) doesn't feel overcrowded, balancing the claps, piano and vocals on a tight beam.
Let's not forget who sings on all the 11 tracks here: Adele herself boasts an array of high notes to compounding falsettos on Send My Love and Sweetest Devotion while still retaining the known heights of old on Hello, the drum-driven I Miss You and All I Ask. There's so much presence and space for her to spark into life and just own the tracks despite what people call a safe attempt forward. While it is without a dose of risk, why change what you're good at? The live performances of the songs mentioned above will surely impress and astound, though it is already a given.
I know this has been a long review, but it's been definitely worth it. Adele's triumphant return to pop and soul music might just be what the genre needed after years of over-saturation of the same-old with artists either being too plain and dull, or over extending and falling straight on their faces.
25 encapsulates the ideas of growing up, feeling regret and disappointment for what could've been, but what happens in the next album we won't surely know. I just hope that if Adele does step outside her comfort zone to tackle more quick tempo tracks and so on, that she'd still retain the core of what she had built over the past 3 albums.
Adele is back, and 25 might just puncture the hopes of those in the running to win a Grammy. And I feel a little sorry for them. But to Adele, I can only say that this album soars with flying colours. If you're expecting Rolling in the Deep 2.0, you will surely be disappointed, even if to say expecting a 2nd shot at 21. Be patient, have an open-mind and you might just see why you've missed out on a truly remarkable album.
Essentials: Hello, A Million Years, Send My Love (To Your New Lover)
Favourite Tracks: River Lea, Water Under the Bridge, I Miss You, When We Were Young
Least Favourite Tracks: -
Benny Ong: Just your regular guy who likes soccer more than most people, and also a little downtime is pretty nice.