Adele: 21

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Posted February 22, 2011 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

Sophomore jinx is no match against Adele’s polished sophomore set of folk/soul

Adele’s debut album, 2009’s 19, quickly established the London singer as a rare alternative to those fascinated by the Amy Winehouse movement. In a matter of months, Adele’s brilliance had won over the hearts of the Academy (she won Best New Artist) and even wowed the BRIT Awards – ultimately beating out Duffy and the Jonas Brothers for Critics’ Choice – using a kind of bemoaning soul music that’s usually ferments in 40-something veterans, like a grand marshal of the blues. Out of nowhere, the brute debut came out the gates swinging with the blue eyed soul thriller “Chasing Pavements”; unable to grab hold to a Top 40 playlist, adult R&B or adult contemporary platform. Still, with the help of a strong grass-roots strategy and lots of hard work, Adele became an overnight sensation – proving once and for all that there was life after Back to Black. Two years later and Adele’s hoping to keep her creative juices flowing while also breaking that accursed sophomore jinx with 21. This time around the ballsy folk-soul singer is surrounded by a squad of super-producers including Rick Rubin, Paul Epworthand OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder along with a more brooding, matured sound that proves to be a bit of a detour from 19‘s solemness.

21 also inherits a multitude of deeper, more melodramatic contrasts; Lady Antebellum pop, soulful Americana, ‘70’s R&B and tent revival gospel are just some of the ambitious hues, but like Robert Plant’s brilliant Americana teaser Band of Joy, 21blows new life upon the substance that easily turns novice audiophiles into vinyl junkies. “The scars of your love they leave me breathless/I can’t help feeling/We could have had it all,”Adele sings as she empties out her heart on “Rolling In the Deep” while using the angst of Mahalia Jackson’s “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” but quickly shifts her trajectory from mourning into optimism as the choir chants and Sunday morning handclaps in the background echo her freedom. Ryan Tedder designs “Rumour Has It” around a Melanie Fiona-meets-the Black Keys’ tour de force. “Turning Tables” – co-written with Tedder – is a pop signature masterpiece loaded with Adele’s emotive vocals alongside a ballet swarming with seducing strings and swooning piano executions. As the album gallops halfway into the set, Rick Rubin’s offerings grant Adele ingenious neo-soul vibes (“He Won’t Go,” “Lovesong”) and a proud gospel-soul ‘Purple Rain’ moment with “One and Only.” When the Dan Wilson-penned closer “Someone Like You” finally enters, Adele’s voice proves to be groundbreaking, soaring into the clouds with the ingenuity of a new generation Dusty Springfield.

At the helm of 21’sirrevokable execution is knowing Adele is co-writing every chapter offered and even lending her production intelligence when permissible, so even with all the super producers and songwriters on board, Adele is a woman in total control of her craft. Far better than its predecessor, 21 has all the key ingredients to indoctrinate itself into the annals of music history and all the hopefulness of a desperate follow-up. Here’s looking to 23, everybody.

J MATTHEW COBB

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HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 22 February 2011 (US)
  • Label: XL/Columbia
  • Producers: Ryan Tedder, Rick Rubin, Paul Epworth, Jim Abbiss, Fraser T Smith, Dan Wilson
  • Spin This: ”Rolling In the Deep,” “One and Only,” “He Won’t Go,” “Turning Tables”

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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