Adele – 21

August 30, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Posted in Adele | 4 Comments
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  1. Rolling In The Deep
  2. Rumour Has It
  3. Turning Tables
  4. Don’t You Remember
  5. Set Fire To The Rain
  6. He Won’t Go
  7. Take It All
  8. I’ll Be Waiting
  9. One And Only
  10. Lovesong
  11. Someone Like You
  12. If It Hadn’t Been For Love
  13. Hiding My Heart

In a business where sex sells and women are expected to be a certain size, Adele threw all those expectations out the window and single-handedly dominated 2011 with her sophomore record, 21. She made her mark with her first album, 19, which showcased her powerful voice to the world. While that album was successful, it pales in comparison to what she achieved with this album. Album sales have certainly declined in the new digital age but Adele revitalized the industry. I first heard of Adele through word of mouth on message boards but I had no desire to check her album out. Eventually, I came across her video for Rolling In The Deep and that was all it took to send me off to find her album. She doesn’t stray from the themes that she explored in her debut and 21 is completely focused on the aftermath of one of her relationships. However, what is different about this album is its maturity and sound. Everything is bolder, louder and so much more powerful. It is a reflection of who she has become as a person and her growth is very evident. The songs reveal her experience with the break-up, ranging from feelings of anger, regret, sadness and heartbreak. On 19 she had just begun carving her sound but on this album she perfects it.

Like I said in the introduction, Rolling In The Deep was all it took to get me hooked on her and it’s one hell of an opener. Blending blues and gospel, she creates a powerful revenge track laced with dark overtones. With the simple strumming of a guitar, the stage is set for Adele’s massive voice. “There’s a fire starting in my heart” she bellows to the simplistic but strong strumming, only to be joined by an explosive set of drums after the first stanza. While I loved her voice on her debut, it sounds richer and stronger now. The fury that spills from the melody and her vocals is captivating and deadly. It demands attention and you can’t help but cower to it. Once in the pre-chorus, you can feel the song building up and getting ready to erupt and it does in the chorus. “We could have had it all/rolling in the deep/you had my heart inside of your hand/and you played it/to the beat” she belts, accompanied by gospel backing vocals. It’s the highlight of the track and it’s a massive ear-worm. Her deep, emotional and vindictive tones are a breath of fresh air. Her voice is one of a kind and she shows it off perfectly. She channels gospel in the bridge as she sings to a clapping beat with wailing background vocals. The song constantly amazes and continues to fill up with power as it goes on. It’s really not surprising that this song blew up everywhere. It avoids all the clichés that riddle music today and it’s something that hasn’t been done in a very long time. It’s an amazing track and it still hasn’t lost its charm even if it’s been overplayed to death. Rumour Has It is a poppier tune that is percussion-driven. It still has that blues-y feel but its in-your-face as she addresses the gossip surrounding her love life. This track has a very contagious groove to it, thanks to the constant display of drums and her “oohs” which remain in the background for the majority of the song. Her powerhouse of a voice takes on a sassy tone as she sings to the old school beat. There isn’t much of a chorus because it’s just the title repeated a few times but it’s so addicting and funky. It’s hard not to become a victim of its beat. Things calm down in the bridge until the rapid piano comes in and evokes an unsettling atmosphere, leading back into the wicked drum melody.

Adele gets more intimate with the next track, Turning Tables, which finds her cooing to the delicate strokes of a sad piano. The tear-inducing melody is captivating and is complimented by her sorrowful vocals. “Close enough to start a war/all that I have is on the floor,” she sings and with lyrics like these it’s hard not to fall for this tear-jerker. This was a favourite of mine the first time I heard it. Its beauty resonates loud when the pre-chorus hits and the piano’s tone shifts as her voice heightens. The outcome is marvelous and it’s certainly a key part of the song, despite how short it is. For a brief second, the song becomes barren and the piano comes back stronger for the chorus, “so, I won’t let you close enough to hurt me/no, I won’t rescue you to just desert me/I can’t give you the heart you think you gave me/it’s time to say goodbye to turning tables.” It’s stunning and her voice tears through the instrumentation with pain. The chorus is better the second time around because of the strings and the spiraling nature of the bridge, emotionally and sonically, is amazing. Don’t You Remember leads her away from anger and brings her to a state of reflection with its calm and country acoustic set. The guitar embodies the feel of the countryside and it has a very welcoming and warm air to it. The minimal arrangement of the verses puts all the focus on her voice. She impresses with soothing and deep tones that convey a tremendous amount of pain, “when was the last time you thought of me?/or have you completely erased me from your memory?” I love the way her voice stretches and rises. It not only evokes a stronger sense of sadness but demonstrates what a great vocalist she is. Eventually, it starts to build up as it heads into the pre-chorus and finally climaxes in the chorus as the drums join the guitar riff which becomes a lot livelier. The hook is phenomenal as she lets her voice soar through the melody and it instantly pulls you into its depressing atmosphere. She recalls the good times in her relationship but it’s overshadowed by the heartbreak that she has endured. It comes together in a lovely but extremely sad way, “but don’t you remember?/don’t you remember?/the reason you loved me before/baby, please remember me once more.”

Set Fire To The Rain is the beast of the album. This is her best song and it’s a killer power ballad. Struggling with the idea of letting go, she delves into a dark concoction of piano, percussion and strings. The gorgeous piano and percussion melody start things off and her vocals are unbelievable, “I let it fall, my heart/and as it fell you rose to claim it.” It’s, without a doubt, her best vocal performance. She didn’t sing like this on her debut so it’s stunning to hear her put so much energy into her voice. The lyrics are as beautiful as the accompanying melody and as it enters the pre-chorus the strings come to life, building up for the chorus which is the most amazing hook on the entire album. “But I set fire to the rain/watched it pour as I touched your face/well, it burned while I cried/’cause I heard it screaming out your name, your name,” she belts with her monstrous voice to a melody that is both elegant and terrifying. The power she evokes is incredible and it’s so easy to fall head over heels for this song. The second chorus contains an extra stanza and it’s even better. I love the way her voice sounds when she cries “and I threw us into the flames.” Adele finishes it off with some crazy belting, something that she doesn’t do very often, and the final note she hits leaves me speechless every time. This is a complete gem, one of the standout songs from the previous year and cements her as one of the best singers to grace the music industry in the last few years. The album cools down with He Won’t Go, a chilled mid-tempo with a cool piano and drum beat that touches slightly on R&B territory. The relaxed tone of the verses is nice and her delivery is very laid-back. The shift in the chorus makes the song exciting thanks to the dramatic drums. Her voice takes on a soulful twang that suits the light melody. The bridge features a lovely harp and it’s the best part of the song. The final chorus gets an extra kick because of the strings which makes it catchier. It’s a good song but it’s not that memorable.

Take It All borrows from gospel and she wastes no time in getting started. “Didn’t I give it all/tried my best/gave you everything I had/everything and no less?” she sings as she moves between deep and high tones to an arrangement solely driven by a piano. She plays with her vocal range a lot on this ballad and that’s what makes it so enjoyable. The simple composition lets her raw vocals shine and they’re so beautiful. The pitchy, high notes that she occasionally hits are divine, especially in the bridge where she lets her voice go out of control. She’s so emotive in the chorus and the background choir that joins really adds to the gospel feel, “but go on/go on and take it/take it all with you/don’t look back/at this crumbling fool.” The album gets a mood lift with the optimistic I’ll Be Waiting. Opening with a cool drum beat, it moves to a groovy piano and brass beat that revitalizes the record. After all the vengeful and melancholic tracks, it’s a bit refreshing to have a song that’s more upbeat and bright. The jazzy feel is addicting and her cheery vocals are such a joy to hear. The vibrancy picks up again in the pre-chorus when the brass instruments crescendo and her voice rises with excitement, “but we had time against us/miles between us/the heavens cried/I know I left you speechless.” With an infectious pop-like chorus, it’s easy to be entranced by this song. The melody in the chorus is super catchy and even though the lyrical matter isn’t as happy as you would expect from such a bouncy beat, it’s still a delicious departure for her, “I’ll be waiting for you when you’re ready to love me again/I’ll put my hands up/I’ll do everything different/I’ll be better to you.” The harmonies that occur and her backing vocals are amazing and really add to the pleasant vibe. Things do slow down a bit in the bridge, where it gets a nice little dose of country swag and she manages to get in one fantastic belt. Her vocals at the end are top-notch and make a lasting impact. Overall, it’s a must-hear and it’s a shame that this is the only time you get to see this side of her.

One And Only brings the soul back with a soothing piano and an impeccable performance from the songstress. She uses her low register for this track and it’s so stunning. In the calm verses, her voice flutters to the piano licks. It’s her most soulful approach on the record and it’s one of my favourites. Unlike the other tracks, it’s not emotionally polarizing because it stands between a depressing sound and a positive one. Just as the chorus begins, the song’s gospel elements flood in. The organ adds a feel-good and romantic tone that goes with her gospel-tinged vocals perfectly, “I dare you to let me be your, your one and only/promise I’m worthy to hold in your arms/so come on and give me a chance.” I really like the bridge because of the vocal layers. The instrumental is very percussion and piano-driven but mellow and two sets of her vocals are layered over each other. Her subtle background belting is beautiful and it slowly moves to the forefront as the choir and strings join her which makes it even more amazing. I love how the strings are incorporated in the final chorus because it makes it sweeter. Next up is her cover of Lovesong by The Cure and it’s her most simplistic offering. Adele tones done her vocals, only allowing them to flow softly to the serene acoustic instrumentation of guitars and strings. There’s a lingering feel of darkness that invades the melody and it really makes the song for me. The song is highly structured. The verses are pretty much identical to each other and follow a specific pattern, “whenever I’m alone with you/you make me feel like I am home again/whenever I’m alone with you/you make me feel like I am whole again.” The song remains in the same tempo but does switch it up by rotating between strings and guitars. The chorus is beyond simple but it works and it’s so touching, “however far away I will always love you/however long I stay I will always love you/whatever words I say I will always love you.” It’s a very haunting ballad and despite being so minimal compared to the others, it’s one of the standout songs.

Someone Like You is the album’s biggest hit and the most popular song of 2011. There probably isn’t a single person alive who hasn’t heard this song. It’s been a long time since a ballad has blown up and loved by the masses like this but it’s wonderful to see a song of this caliber being appreciated. With a sweeping piano and vocals drenched in agony, this is one of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard in my life. This ballad has her dealing with heartbreak again but this is the moment that the album has built up to. The verses are calm and collected as she sings to the fact that her ex-lover has moved on and found someone else, “I heard that you’re settled down/that you found a girl and you’re married now/I heard that your dreams came true/guess she gave you things I didn’t give to you.” Her singing picks up speed for the melodic pre-chorus and when she enters the chorus, that’s when she lets her emotions run loose. “Never mind, I’ll find someone like you/I wish nothing but the best for you too,” she cries and you can feel the anguish seep out of her. Her performance on this track is flawless and I love the way her voice falters and she loses composure when she sings “don’t forget me, I beg.” Lyrically and musically, it’s quite simple but in it’s simplicity it’s resonated with millions because of how relatable it is. It’s a marvelous song about heartbreak that evokes such an intense sense of pain. It’s a perfect ballad and one that will be remembered for a very long time. Adele covers another track and this time it’s If It Hadn’t Been For Love by the Steeldrivers. There’s a slight fading effect on her voice which makes it sound like a live recording and it adds to the overall mood. The old school country groove is delightful as are her soulful vocals, “never woulda hitch hiked to Birmingham/if it hadn’t been for love/never woulda caught the train to Louisiana/if it hadn’t been for love.” The music doesn’t change in the chorus but her voice moves to a higher register and her background vocals kick in. It’s not a favourite but I like its calm sound and her vocal runs at the end are pretty.

Continuing on with the covers is Hiding My Heart by Brandi Carlile. Introduced by a laid-back acoustic guitar, it’s very similar to the previous song in terms of the feel that the acoustics set up but it’s more emotional. The song isn’t as brilliant as her original material but it’s a very nice listen. It’s calm, relaxing and fits in with the thematic structure of the album, “but like everything I’ve ever known/you’ll disappear one day/so I’ll spend my whole life hiding my heart away.” Nothing much happens so it’s not too memorable. It’s mostly just enjoyable because of her vocals. The iTunes bonus, I Found A Boy, is a huge change for Adele and has her singing about finding new love with someone else. “But I found a boy who I love more/than I ever did you before/so stand beside the river I cried/and lay yourself down/look how you want me now that I don’t need you,” she asserts in the chorus which is a far cry from the rest of the album. This is another guitar-driven mid-tempo so it loses any lasting effect because it ends up sounding too similar and lackluster to the other songs. The bridge is the best part because the tempo rises a little as the guitars become livelier and she sings more spontaneously. The final chorus benefits from the change in tempo so it does redeem itself near the end.

Conclusion: 21 is going to go down in history as one of the best albums of this decade. This isn’t just a case of hype because the album deserves everything that it has achieved. It’s been such a long time since a singer like Adele has had a tremendous impact on the music industry. Through countless awards, breaking records and making history, Adele has created an album that brings the focus back on the music and not on the gimmicks or look of the artist. It’s refreshing to see a singer not care about their looks and only care about what really matters, the music. 21 is a vast improvement over her debut in every way possible. The songs are more powerful, more emotional and her voice is out of this world. She has so much control over her voice and I love how she’s allowed it to expand on this record. There are some glorious belts and notes that she hits that she didn’t do very often on her debut. The album, like her first, does become too familiar by the time you get to the end but that’s only including the bonus tracks which are mostly covers anyway. Adele dominated 2011 and rightly so. She deserves all the success she has received and will receive in the future. She’s already become an icon and it’s not a surprise that she took the world by storm because there isn’t anyone out there right now with a voice like hers, making music that is this good.

Recommended Tracks: Set Fire To The Rain, Someone Like You, Rolling In The Deep, Turning Tables, Lovesong, One And Only and I’ll Be Waiting



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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