“Hello. It’s me.”
With three little words etched on a jet black screen on British television, iconic songstress Adele announced her impending comeback, to global excitement, and soon the behemoth album that is 25 was announced and released to the world. Her status as iconic singer was cemented when sophomore album 21 became a global phenomenon and she was championed by virtually everybody for her inimitable vocals, her emotive songwriting, and the accessibility of her work when relating to the turmoil of the heart.
25 has, in some ways, already changed the face of modern music, championing a need for physical copies of music again – the album is famously unavailable on online streaming – and has become the biggest selling album since records began.
But is it actually any good? Do the songs survive beyond the hype?
This isn’t to say that the album is without flaws, but 25 is largely a cohesive, thoroughly enjoyable record in the most old-fashioned sense of the word. It flows, with upbeat tracks and moody ballads alike, allowing the feeling of an album rooted in recovery, in acceptance, in turning over a new leaf. Nothing says this quite so succinctly as the lead single ‘Hello’, a dramatic uber-ballad of epic proportions that grounds itself in the idea of reconciliation, of platonic connection following romantic disruption. Consider this compared to 21‘s lead single, the heartbroken and defiant ‘Rolling in the Deep’, and it seems as though Adele has worked through the pain and found a light at the end of the tunnel.
These themes resonate throughout the album – the poppy ‘Send My Love To Your New Lover’ is a spirited, Max Martin-helmed kiss-off and ‘Water Under the Bridge’ is a vibrant, catchy tune, while songs like the rousing ‘Remedy’ and the intimate, personal ‘River Lea’ are more focused than ever on Adele’s personal life, allowing the listener a window, however short, into the world she so famously hides from her fans and admirers.
That doesn’t mean that 25 is all sunshine and lollipops, however – she still deals with the melancholia of love lost, and with emotional turmoil; it is Adele after all. The ballads ‘When We Were Young‘ and ‘Million Years Ago’ are emotive, sung with aching depths of feeling, and are classic ballads that Adele is making her calling card. Some songs aren’t as strong is this respect – ‘Love in the Dark’ meanders for far too long, and ‘All I Ask’ is inoffensive but fails to make a mark.
Ironically, the sweetest track of the lot falls to the album closer, ‘Sweetest Devotion’, a heartfelt and sincere love song to Adele’s son Angelo, who was born between records. The song is infused with love, and it makes for an ebullient, elegant end to an album that builds on Adele’s successes, rather than trying to revolutionise her tried and tested formula of big ballads that showcase her incomparable vocals.
25 is, surprisingly, maybe as big as 21 was, four years ago. Whether or not this leads to Grammy nominations and a second wave of global adoration remains to be seen, but the signs of looking favourable. More importantly, 25 has allowed one of the voices of a generation to return to the fold in her own terms, in her own way; and in the face of modern music, that in itself is the true triumph. Everything else is just icing on the cake.
Welcome back, Adele. We’ve missed you.