With over 4.2 million copies of “25” sold in the first two weeks, the only way Adele could break any more records is if she were let loose in a vinyl warehouse with a baseball bat.
After four painfully quiet years, it is clear now that motherhood has done nothing to weaken Adele’s stranglehold on the industry or on listeners’ heartstrings. The songstress’ third LP has been a marketing success in every sense of the term while still managing to rise above the hype with the grace and maturity that only Adele can muster.
In interviews leading up to the album’s Nov. 20 release, Adele explained that whereas “21” was a “breakup album,” “25” was very much a “make-up” album. True to her word, the new LP plays like an 11-track quest for closure.
“Hello” smacks of that desperate search, with Adele trying to reconcile with a long-lost confidant through words reminiscent of that awkward run-in with a former high school sweetheart. Over a now unforgettable chorus, Adele is franticly earnest as she belts out an apologetic crescendo, “I must’ve called a thousand times / to tell you I’m sorry for everything I’ve done.”
The five-minute plea for mutual forgiveness not only serves as the perfect comeback single for the artist, but as the ideal opening track for the record, charting a course for music that ripples with the need to close one of life’s chapters for another.
“25” also sees Adele exploring new collaborative avenues, including a polished pop tune with Swedish producer juggernaut Max Martin, whose catalog of hot 100 hits already surpasses that of the Beatles.
After having her interest peaked by Martin’s work on Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble,” Adele reached out to the songwriting sensation, and the resulting effort—the synth-heavy cut “Send My Love (to Your new Lover)”—takes the same dismissive stance as Swift’s tune, only with a lot less dubstep muddying up the chorus. It is a track built for radio from the ground up.
Sadly, you can expect to be sick of this one by springtime, and that is just if you are patient.
Adele also reunites with old musical friends like Paul Epworth, whose last contribution to Adele’s career came in the form of a little song called “Rolling in the Deep.”
This time around, the duo craft the much slower and spectral “I Miss You,” with thunderous drums that get one’s blood pumping despite their resolutely slow cadence. The drums at times even threaten to drown out Adele’s wailing plea for an estranged lover to “Pull me in, hold me tight / don’t let go, baby give me light,” creating the illusion of Adele yelling across eternity for a pleasure she surrendered a long time ago.
The LP is full of impressive writing and producing collaborations with names like Bruno Mars (“All I Ask”) and Danger Mouse (“River Lee”), but where “25” truly shines is when Adele steps back from the larger than life productions fame has afforded her and embraces stripped down performances like “Remedy,” which upon first listen sounds a lot like a Counting Crows pastiche.
On these powerful ballads, Adele recedes out of her pop star persona and just becomes a talented woman with a sweet-sounding piano. It’s always nice to go back to one’s roots.
One last take-away from this LP is that Adele certainly has an old soul. On the exotic, acoustic guitar-tinged “Million Years Ago,” for instance, Adele sings from a place of wisdom usually only reached by stars who have been at it for decades.
Her writing can soar to the highest of highs and delve to the darkest of depths with such ease, it is almost frightening to think that this is the music of someone who has not even reached her mid-life crisis yet.
Closure continues to hold the entire record together, and the final track “Sweetest Devotion,” wraps the whole thing up in a ribbon of up-tempo positivity as Adele pledges eternal loyalty to her young son. This is the track that seems to say “okay, you’ve fretted long enough, now it’s time to move on and pick up the pieces.”
“25” is available now on iTunes, Amazon and wherever music is sold.
Des Delgadillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.