First Impressions: Enter Adele's Roaring 20s On '21'

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Someone (I can't think of who at the moment) described the late Phyllis Hyman's singing as if she had a tear in her voice. It's an apt description for the late Ms. Hyman, as well as an applicable one in the description run down of Adele. There are a minuscule amount of songs that I actually feel, but Adele's voice does the hard-to-come-by task of making you feel each song that spills out of her. It happened with songs on her 2008 debut, 19 ("Hometown Glory" and "Chasing Pavements"), and now 21 contains those same 'tears'. This time 11 tightly produced 'tears' (courtesy of Rick Rubin, Paul Eptworth, and Fraser T. Smith) that further distances Adele from her peers in classy abundance and let's her share her corners of confessional standpoints with her listeners once again. You do indeed feel each of these corners as the crash and burn of a relationship provoked Adele to structure big middle-finger anthems and tear stained pillow ballads on this set.

21 is filled with the same growing pains of her debut, but it just further continues Adele on the path as one of today's most notable London bred soul vocal machines, right behind Amy Winehouse and to some extent Joss Stone (two other women who also sound like they grew up in the back rowed pews of a Georgia Baptist church). In early reviews that I've scanned, some have complained of Adele sounding (surprisingly) 'too radio friendly' on this, even 'too over-the-top' and 'less focused on the lyrics'. The biggie is some are feeling disappointment over her 'abandoning her soulful roots'.

Some people just ask for too much.

Everything just seems really real on this record. Even when things aren't polished, like the sharpness and sometimes overwhelming of Adele's wails, the wobbly lyrical arrangements, the moments where some songs start boldly, but end a bit plush---these pesky tiny flaws seem to fit with the overall tone of the album, which makes them positives and a more authentic listening experience.

It's really no secret that is Adele is influenced from the hip swivels of an Ike Turner assisted Tina Turner, a weary world traveling vocalizations of Etta James, with a grasp of the paths that Roberta Flack, Janis Ian, and even Laura Nyro laid out through their confessional pieces. Adele takes note of those before her and takes it to the 21st century. The result first began with "Rolling In The Deep", which still sounds so viciously good. It really sounds like a song my children will listen to one day and enjoy, that's how unforgettable it is.

"Rumor Has It" (which is surprisingly penned with some variance by Ryan Tedder) follows in it's same sassy footing, but switches things up by taking a different avenue mid-song where it becomes a brand new piece. I wouldn't be surprised if it's a single after the staggering, "Set Fire To The Rain", which boldly thunders on in. I have a fondness for the punchy piano arrangement of "He Won't Go" where some real R&B crops up that lets Adele really explore that terrain. The song sounds like something Alicia Keys would either have done or would throw punches to record.

He Won't Go 

Adele really gives her all on the ballads, each one distinctive from the last. The spotlight shines on her re-imaging of The Cure's "Lovesong", a song that is closely associated with the 80's band, is breathed new life as a grainy ballad. "One and Only" is another ballad of note that contains a real lovely moment towards it's finale where the tempo is slowed to a piano and some Gospel vocalizations break through. You might need to snag a fan for this one, it get all kinds of hot. My favorite of them all is "Turning Tables" and it's the closest to a leftover from 19 that we can get (yeah, it does sound a tad like "Hometown Glory"), but the climax of it is so gorgeous and haunting that I can't help but express that this song is just excellent.

Turning Tables  

Two well-deserved Grammys later (one being Best New Artist in 2009), Adele has possibly found her footing with 21. With it she emits an underlining message that the transition from child to adult is quite a complex one. For people experiencing their roaring 20's now (raises hand) or have already surpassed that point, this album hits on the mark and reminds all over again all those jumbled emotions during that limbo dance of an age. Also for those who haven't gotten to that turning point yet, 21 is actually an album to grow with, and we don't get too many albums like that. Sure, it's not the most perfect album (and at the age of 21 are you really that defined and grown?), but if you stand back and fully listen to this sophomore release, it's Adele's most complete, honest, and fully realized effort....well, so far, as there will no doubt be more tears to come.

Released: January 24, 2011 (UK) // February 22, 2011 (US)

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    Hi Jennifer,

    On behalf of the Beggars Group, XL Recordings and Adele many thanks for plugging "21" on your site, the artists recently released album ... .. thanks, also, on behalf of the artist and label for not posting any pirate links to unreleased (studio) material and, if you / your readers want good quality, non-pirated, preview material, then a promotional stream is now available both to link to and as a widget at and the lead single – “Rolling in the Deep” – is also available to steam / link to and as an embeddable widget at ... .. for further details of the new album, check-out the official web-site, as well as Adele’s YouTube channel at and Facebook at ... .. and keep an eye on these official sources for details of further news, preview material, videos and on-line promotions.

    Thanks again for your plug.



  2. Enjoyed the review. Just discovered your blog. I have many friends that are music nerds but I have not explored much. Looking forward to taking time to read your reviews and maybe leave a few opinions of my own. I appreciate the format and content.

  3. Welcome aboard Yasha! Thanks for your words. Hope you do stick around cause I do have a lot to say :)


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