Adele – 19

December 18, 2011 at 9:15 pm | Posted in Adele | Leave a comment
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  1. Daydreamer
  2. Best For Last
  3. Chasing Pavements
  4. Cold Shoulder
  5. Crazy For You
  6. Melt My Heart To Stone
  7. First Love
  8. Right As Rain
  9. Make You Feel My Love
  10. My Same
  11. Tired
  12. Hometown Glory
  13. Painting Pictures
  14. Now And Then
  15. That’s It, I Quit, I’m Moving On

With the buzz surrounding Adele this year, I knew I had to finally give 19 a shot. I heard many things about it when it was released but I never ended up even checking it out. After listening to her sophomore record, I didn’t even need to think twice and immediately went to see what I had been missing. Adele boasts a voice like no other. Delving into blues, jazz and pop, she brings her own unique twist to these genres and puts her spectacular songwriting skills on display. Only nineteen when the album was written, the reason for its title, she exudes a confidence and maturity that many other young artists lack. This might translate to some that she’s boring but that is far from the truth. Of course, you won’t find any up-tempos here but what you get is a well-crafted record detailing the experiences of a woman coming of age.

Daydreamer comes in showcasing Adele’s vocal prowess as she performs over a simplistic guitar and piano melody. “Daydreamer/sitting on the sea/soaking up the sun,” she sings, using her deep timbre to lure the listener in. The instrumentation takes a back seat and the focus lies on her vocals. The entire track is carried by her voice and she’s a pleasure to listen to. She truly has an exceptional voice that’s distinct and her high register in the chorus is angelic. The way she stretches and expands the words is beautiful, “you can find him/sitting on your doorstep/waiting for a surprise/and he will feel like/he’s been there for hours/and you can tell that he’ll be there for life.” What a simple and fresh way to start things off. Adele flutters into jazz for the retro and delicious Best For Last. The composition is engaging, heavy guitar chords are the key player, and her sweet performance is outstanding. Adele makes it highly addicting and actually quite playful. About halfway into the verse, the guitars crescendo to a groovy beat and the tempo increases once again in the phenomenal chorus. “You should know that you’re just a temporary fix/this is not rooted with you/it don’t mean that much to me/you’re just a filler in the space/that happened to be free/how dare you think you’d get away/with trying to play me,” her voice dances to the infectious beat which adds a funky piano and drumline. The backing vocals support her voice wonderfully and they really enhance the overall feel. It’s great to see her play around with jazz and the happy air it emits is contagious. The gem of the album, Chasing Pavements, was the first song to truly stick with me. The verses consist of a touching piano and guitar melody, later including percussion, while Adele sings calmly. Her emotional vocals soar in the chorus and the soft melody is replaced by grandiose strings, “should I give up?/or should I just keep chasing pavements?/even if it leads nowhere/or would it be a waste/even if I knew my place.” It’s stunning and Adele sounds unbelievably amazing. Everything works so well in the chorus and it ends up being one of those songs you’ll be humming all day. Her mature voice shines through this number and the punch in the chorus is so great and captivating. It’s a wonderful song that shows off her chops and her beautiful songwriting.

Cold Shoulder boasts an interesting intro that consists of vibrant drums and stuttering strings. Her soulful voice joins the beat and works its magic as she effortlessly takes control of the song. The instrumental is quite upbeat for the lyrical content but it works and I love her energy, “you grace me with your cold shoulder/whenever you look at me I wish I was her/you shower me with words made of knives.” Between the chorus and verse, there’s a dramatic sequence of strings that’s very cool and totally unexpected. Continuing with the surprises, the bridge turns into a loud instrumental clash while she sings using a raspy tone. I didn’t expect the song to sound like this but I love it. Crazy For You is another throwback and it has a slight country vibe to it. This is similar to the first track because it has a minimal instrumental and focuses more on the vocals. Her powerful vocals glide along the light guitar chords and it sounds really nice. I don’t find it as astonishing as some of the other songs but I do enjoy it for the most part. The chorus is definitely the highlight due to the delicious manner she sings “crazy for you.” Her high tone is breathtaking and she puts so much emotion into her voice that it sounds like it will crack at any moment. Her voice is flawless and I wish the instrumental was a bit more engaging but regardless, it’s still a good track. Melt My Heart To Stone is a gorgeous mid-tempo. It comes alive as it progresses and moves from a piano arrangement to include a drum beat in the second chorus which makes it stand out. The first verse dazzles with its strings and her vocals are a blend of high and low tones that leave me speechless. I love the way her voice stretches to reach the high notes and it just sounds unreal, “and I hear your words that I made up/you say my name like there could be an us/I best tidy up my head I’m the only one in love.” The bridge brings all these great elements together and raises them into a beautiful, vibrant sound.

A charming music box opens First Love which is the only melody that is utilized. Although not a favourite, its cute melody is hard to resist. I’m not surprised that the lyrical content is saddening, “this love has dried up/and stayed behind/and if I stay I’ll be a lie/then choke on words I’d always hide,” but a part of me believed that this would be a sweet song. Nothing really happens and that’s why I have a hard time getting into it. It’s basically the same from start to end and you end up hoping for something to happen. Right As Rain brings a much-needed funky blues beat and livens the album up after the last few somber tracks. Adele opts for a more feminine singing style and its addicting paired with her soulful tone. “‘Cause when hard work don’t pay off/and I’m tired there ain’t no room in my bed/as far as I’m concerned/so wipe that dirty smile off,” her voice crescendos to the fun piano and drum instrumental. I love the old school vibe that comes out of the gritty jazz beats and backing vocals in the chorus. The end marks the first time she shows off the belting side of her voice and it’s wonderful. I’m surprised she hasn’t hit that many belts but, in a way, that’s what makes her refreshing. Adele covers Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love next and her rendition is great. All that backs her up is a piano and it lets her luscious voice take center stage, “when the rain is blowing in your face/and the whole world is on your case/I could offer you a warm embrace/to make you feel my love.” Her delivery is simple yet incredibly passionate and emotional. There are some moments where the backing vocals support her and they’re very tender. I love how smooth this track is and her dreamy vocals glide easily to the melody. Near the end, strings are added to expand the arrangement and she adds just a bit of strength into her vocals. I can see why she likes this song and she really makes it her own. Its content really fits with the rest of the album.

I wasn’t expecting My Same to be introduced by weird vocalizing, “aye aye,” but it definitely help it stick out. It’s filled with a retro beat that has a distinctly modern flair due to its quirkiness. I knew I was going to enjoy this right when I hear the intro and it’s such a great tune. Adele sounds like she’s having a blast as her voice bounces to the guitar. I adore the last lines of each stanza because the backing vocals come in and she plays with her vocals as she alternates between different tones, “you’re so provocative I’m so conservative/you’re so adventurous I’m so very cautious/combining you’d think we wouldn’t but we do.” Her kooky vocalizing shows up again during the bridge for a while until she switches up to some very impressive runs. I like this song a lot and it’s one of the most memorable. Tired is similar to the rest of the album but at the same time it’s different because it’s the only one to use synths. The synths are barely used in the verses, a drum and guitar beat dominates them, but during the chorus they come to life, “I’m tired of trying/your teasing ain’t enough/fed up of buying your time/when I don’t get nothing back.” Furthermore, the second chorus features brighter synths as they’re joined by a set of strings that raise the atmosphere. In the bridge, the tempo gets a drastic reduction and the light electro beats fade for a symphony of strings that are accompanied by her haunting whispers. It gives the song an interesting layer which prevents it from being predictable and helps it stand out a bit more. The album ends with the song that introduced Adele to the world, Hometown Glory. What starts as a delicate breeze of a piano soon fleshes out into a warm melody that finds her singing about her love for her home. Adele’s voice is rich and deep with emotion, getting more vulnerable as the song moves on. Once in the chorus, her voice takes on a husky tone that conveys a sense of nostalgia and affection, “round my hometown/memories are fresh/round my hometown/oh the people I’ve met/are the wonders of my world.” What’s more amazing is the high vocalizing that she does at the end. This is a very comforting song and a gorgeous conclusion.

On the Japanese release, three additional songs were included and the first is Painting Pictures. There’s a brooding feel contained in the instrumentation, at least for the start, and it’s a nice change of pace. Her vocals have some aggression in them which compliments the dark arrangement and the way her voice sharpens when she sings “I want to feel my heartbeat so/with the world that you feel/leave” is incredible. Most of the music fades so it’s almost like an a capella moment and the music comes back but it’s a completely different beat. The second half is upbeat and it has a slight rodeo groove as she delivers a much more energetic performance. It’s a shame it didn’t make it on all versions of the album because it’s a very strong track. Now And Then offers the same old and it’s nothing extraordinary. Like most of the album, it consists of a soft acoustic guitar and that’s pretty much it. The final chorus is the best part because her tone and the backing vocals give it a fuller feel, “‘cause hearts break and hands wave/to make us grow fonder/then our eyes cry and souls sigh/so that we know that it hurts.” The Sam Cooke cover That’s It, I Quit, I’m Moving On is the shortest track on the album, coming in just over two minutes. This is practically a throwaway track even though it’s decent. I can’t fault the vocals or the production because it’s a nice simple song but it’s boring, especially since there are other tracks that do all these things much better. The short length doesn’t help either because it makes it hard to get a grasp of it.

Conclusion: 19 is a great album that is slightly brought down by a few songs that don’t meet their full potential. When Adele gets it right, she slays. The album is packed with emotion and her real life experiences which makes it all the more beautiful and tragic. Due to the album’s heavy lean towards a certain sound, some of the songs do come close to sounding similar and it affects the listening experience. When you get to the end you feel as if you’ve already heard all that it has to offer. Adele’s vocals shine throughout though as she showcases her deep, rich and passionate instrument. The songs that I’m not too crazy about are still worth listening to just because of her voice. Sometimes singers with big voices end up falling into a stereotypical sound that prevents me from enjoying them fully. Adele is a strange case because that didn’t happen with her for me. I actually fell for her quickly and this album is a great introduction to her music.

Recommended Tracks: Chasing Pavements, My Same, Best For Last, Right As Rain, Painting Pictures, Cold Shoulder, Daydreamer and Melt My Heart To Stone

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