Hello… It’s us. Are you even going to bother reading this review? Given the sales of Adele‘s Hello – an average song at best – the answer will probably be no. After all, who is anyone to question one of the most successful artists of all time when she’s going to sell shitloads anyway?
Of course, there’s no denying how seminal an album 21 was for many reasons. But it’s hard to build something so monumental and not remain somewhat in its shadow, which is largely what happens on 25. Maybe it’s our human propensity for sadness, but Adele ‘making up’ leaves much less of an imprint as Adele breaking up.
What’s most acute with Adele on this record is that she shines on the extremes of emotion – that’s why Send My Love (To Your New Lover) seems like a deflating second track, a middle-of-the-road soul-pop jam that most pop types could churn out in a hot minute (unsurprising, given most of said pop types are also working with Max Martin these days – let’s all move on from him now, shall we?). Yet she soars on the dramatic gut-wrench of Sweetest Devotion and I Miss You, matching those thumping drums with the chest-beating histrionics we know her for, and for a moment things seem both comfortable and surprising.
Emotionally, however, 25 doesn’t quite hit the same depth as its predecessor. Perhaps because it’s trying to traverse more ground, but even those piano ballads don’t quite hold a candle to anything like Someone Like You or Turning Tables. There’s also an infuriating inconsistency in the writing – we know Adele can make our heart bleed, so Water Under The Bridge‘s “if you’re gonna let me down, let me down gently/ Don’t pretend that you don’t want me” feels like a bit of a shrug, especially compared to standout River Lea. There she introduces us to her own flaws, saying “sometimes I feel lonely in the arms of your touch/ but I know that that’s just me because nothing is ever enough”, subsequently frustrating us with this reminder that those prior moments just don’t measure up to her searing best.
In the end, that this record is called 25 seems wholly apt. Adele has one foot in the reckless emotion of her adolescence while attempting to make a more concerted effort toward stable and reflective adulthood. It’s in the staid and familiar cadence of Love In The Dark, lapping back and forth as it does on the shores of gentle keys, being uneasily balanced by the European cafe-serenade of Million Years Ago. It’s in the wounded missives of her past trying to reconcile with a very settled and complacent present. And unfortunately it’s in the disappointing knowledge that Adele, just like the rest of us, is still a bit all over the place in her mid-twenties.
25 by Adele can be ordered here.