My Take: Adele, 21

There is nothing really new to the stories that comprise the eleven-song, long-awaited sophomore album from Grammy-winning British singer, Adele: they are about the ways in which a heart and person navigates their way through the end of a relationship that has forever altered them, and that story has been around for years. But what is absolutely striking about the story Adele tells throughout 21 is her voice--an incredibly remarkable, soulful, rich voice that belies her mere 22 years--and the way that voice reveals an emotional depth that is, quite simply, stunning.

In a time where popular culture promotes the idea that anyone can sing, we often get too caught up looking, or listening, for the next one hit wonder who, more often than not, falls into a very cookie-cutter type in terms of musical styling, look, and attitude. As a result, we run the risk of turning a deaf ear to genuine voices and genuine raw emotional honesty and intensity. We all have a version of the story that 21 tells, about a love, the love, we found but for whatever reasons things aren't working out as we want. Adele gives it to us with a vocal range and depth that is genuine and genuinely honest: she, like us, starts the day with a "Rolling in the Deep" way, convinced that you'll be entirely fine without the person who's changed your life in immeasurable ways; is tired of playing besting games at the relationship's end in "Turning Tables" but will declare such with strength and personal resolve to treat yourself better; in "Set Fire to the Rain" her voice booms with power (and if you're blessed with really good speakers, crank this one and let it fill whatever space you're in).

There are two songs on the album to which I most often return, which probably says more about me than I care to admit majority of the time. "One And Only" seems a kind of Say Anything boombox song of our time--it's everything you wish you could say to try and finally convince someone that you're not an entirely awful person to be with and that you both, in fact, deserve taking that chance. The vulnerability of putting yourself out there is incredibly palpable in this song, not just for what the song expresses, but also because the song also contains the very real fear of rejection.  The other, "Someone Like You," is the hauntingly beautiful final song of the album, the song about that perfect-for-you person's life with someone who isn't you; it's about knowing that you're still and may always be quite on your knees and feel half-alive without them; and it's about learning the tough lesson that, as the lyric goes, "Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead."  This track perfectly showcases what good music is: a good, strong voice, powerful in itself, not the overlay of heavy drums and guitars or, worse, Autotune.

There's a story around that after Adele performed "Someone Like You" live on this year's Brit awards she welled up at the end, as the emotions of the song and the memory of that life-altering love still brings her to tears. If 21 is the kind of voice and emotion we get from Adele Adkins at twenty-two, I really cannot wait til she turns thirty.

In advance of the U.S. release of 21 on February 22nd, you can listen to the album in its entirety here, like I did, thanks to NPR's First Listen.

Comments (1)

+ 0
+ 0