Album of the Week: 25, by Adele

 

It took less than half a week for British singer Adele Adkins’ latest album 25 to become the top selling album of 2015 (with more than 2.4 million copies sold so far) and to break all kinds of records.

 
 
 
 
British singer Adele is braking all kinds of records with her latest album 25.
 
 

British singer Adele is braking all kinds of records with her latest album 25.

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POP

25

Adele

(XL Recordings)

3 1/2 stars

It took less than half a week for British singer Adele Adkins’ latest album 25 to become the top selling album of 2015 (with more than 2.4 million copies sold so far) and to break all kinds of records.

Considering Adele had envisioned giving up her career after touring blockbuster album 21, released in 2011, suffering vocal injuries leading to surgery, and facing a seemingly insurmountable writer’s block, let’s call 25 a vindication.

25, as usual named by Adele’s age, is less a unified statement than it is a collection of strong, eclectic pop songs disparate enough to please just about everyone. The presence of no less than 11 different producers — matching the number of songs on the record — means that Adele’s personality and her spectacular voice are the unifying factors here more than any kind of signature sound.

Opener Hello, produced by Greg Kurstin (Kelly Clarkson, Sia, Lily Allen), is already one of the biggest songs of the year. It’s a stark, slow building barn burner where Adele turns the table on her usual heartbreak topic, singing as if to say sorry for her own misgivings rather than opening her heart about how she was treated. It’s also a strong statement about her positioning vis-à-vis her fans, stuck on the “other side” of the fame wall, apologizing for her insecurities and for almost calling it quits at the height of her career.

The most interesting songs on the album — or at least the most forward-thinking — come early on. I Miss You has a trip-hop, “noir ‘n’ B” feel, buoyed by longtime collaborator Paul Epworth’s spaced out production that recalls current heavy hitters like The Weeknd. When We Were Young, co-written by Vancouver singer-songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr., is easily the most disarming statement on 25. Produced by Ariel Rechtshaid (Jesso’s producer), the song is an ode to looking back on one’s halcyon days: “Let me photograph you in this light, in case it is the last time/That we might be exactly like we were before we realized/We were sad of getting old.” It’s an intensely emotional statement delivered bare bones, and it’s positively gut-wrenching.

“I wish I could live a little more, look up to the sky not just the floor/I feel like my life is flashing by, and all I can do is watch and cry,” Adele sings on the Suicide Is Painless-esque Million Years Ago, all acoustic guitar and vocals.

Adele is arguably at her best in this kind of sonic environment because the more orchestrated songs tend to fall a bit flat, veering into obvious, cookie-cutter commercial pop territory. All I Ask — co-written by Bruno Mars and produced by Mars’ Smeezingtons production outfit — is too earnest for its own good, an ’80s power ballad that feels outdated despite the powerful delivery. “If this is my last night with you/Hold me like I’m more than just a friend,” she sings.

The gospel-inflected River Lea is pure Danger Mouse, so much so in fact that one wonders if it’s just another ordinary re-write from the producer behind Broken Bells and The Black Keys. In the end, Epworth returns to guide Sweetest Devotion, a big bombastic closer that seals the deal in traditional Adele fashion.

25 is a mostly predictable Adele album that ticks all the expected boxes (and a few unexpected ones). But, most of all, it offers yet another stellar vocal display from one of the world’s best singers.

 
 
 
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British singer Adele is braking all kinds of records with her latest album 25.
 

British singer Adele is braking all kinds of records with her latest album 25.

 
British singer Adele is braking all kinds of records with her latest album 25.
The cover image of Adele's latest blockbuster album 25.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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