Saturday, November 21, 2015

Great Expectations

If you have yet to hear Adele's newest album 25, officially released by XL/Columbia yesterday, you're about 10 breakdowns behind the curve. But don't fret, I'll give you the lowdown on the pop princess's long-awaited follow-up to 21 to ensure you maximize your crying -- er, listening -- time. 

Upon hearing "Hello," I was relieved. After four years, Adele delivered a first single that fulfilled her fans' great expectations, showcasing her artistic maturity while capitalizing on the heart-wrenching plot lines that have made her so successful. 

I was anxious to hear the entire album, as I had heard through the music industry grapevine that 25 was surprisingly (and disappointingly) "upbeat." I held my breath as I pressed play, rationalizing that Adele's version of upbeat was "Rolling In The Deep." 

Nonetheless, my initial reaction to 25 was more concerned than enthralled. I immediately noticed that the collection was kind of, well, lazy. The lyrics, the melodies, the harmonies. Aside from a few noteworthy tracks (listed below), there wasn't a ton of risk. In fact, I bet many of these tracks wouldn't even make Billboard had they been recorded by anyone other than Adele. That's when I had an epiphany. 

Adele hasn't made a career belting the best ballads ever written; she's made a career belting ballads in the best way ever recorded, at least in my music lifetime. She has a voice that spans a less-than-human range and the God-given gift to execute that technically perfect voice with deep and inconsolable emotion that people can't help but feel -- a technique that simply can't be taught. 

With that said, I did find an unexpected amount of variety on the album. "All I Ask" is reminiscent of a Broadway ballad, even a bit Stevie Wonder. "Million Years Ago" is a bit Sixties retro, a la Nancy Sinatra. 

My faves? "Love In The Dark," "I Miss You," "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)" and "River Lea."

What should you skip? "Sweetest Devotion," "When We Were Young," and "Remedy."

PS. If you're looking for the album on Spotify or Apple Music, you won't find it. Adele has joined the ranks of Taylor Swift and Beyonce as one of the only artists of the 21st century with enough leverage to decline streaming services. It's "buy it" or bust. You can preview/buy on iTunes here.