[Picture Credit: Hypable]
Almost five years after the record-breaking success of her juggernaut sophomore album “21,” British songstress Adele has returned to our ears and our hearts (and more than anything, our tear ducts) with “25,” which is just as emotionally-charged and ugly cry-enducing as you’d expect – but with a twist. There’s more pep in her pop-infused step – and there’s more hope and happiness than we may have heard from her before. The album is like old and new coming together, sounding slightly different but altogether familiar – and it works. Track by track on this already record-breaking album, “25” as a whole glistens with all of the emotions you’d expect to hear and feel – but this time around, there may be a little more dancing involved.
The sweeping opening track (and first single) is just as haunting as it is hella emotional – emotional enough to make me use “hella” as a proper adjective. The sound is all classic Adele – soft and almost mournful in the beginning but rising to a powerful crescendo by the chorus, with a few soulful runs sprinkled throughout along the way. Cue the goosebumps.
- “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)”
This song is like the peppier version of “Royals” by Lorde – it’s simple and layered simultaneously, vocals singing of a sign-off from a past lover overlaying a plucking guitar lick and a soft but effective rhythmic backtrack. It’s fun, danceable, and an almost instant crowd-pleaser – and no wonder, with pop producer extraordinaire Max Martin at the helm.
- “I Miss You”
With an almost mystical intro seguing into a sensual recap of a former companionship, this is an example of the “old but new” sentiment mentioned earlier. The song tells of a past lover, but not with as much sadness – it’s a retelling almost reverent in its lyrics (“I want every single piece of you/I want your heaven and your oceans too,”), with darker tones and backing tracks to emphasize its sexiness. Anyone else fanning themselves?
- “When We Were Young”
Reminiscent in both its lyrics and musical composition, this is classic Adele with a slightly more pop-powered base. Driven by a piano and whispering background voices, Adele’s unwavering vocal prowess is in full force on this track (author’s note: it is one of my early favorites). The verses and the chorus are well-defined in their places with seamless transitions from one to the other, which adds to the overall pop power-ballad nature that this almost guaranteed second single has. And that high note near the end? If you haven’t grabbed your tissues yet, do so now, friends. You’ll need it for this one.
This straightforward piano ballad is the epitome of the Adele “sound,” showcasing her unforgettable vocals over the simplicity of a piano power ballad backing. Collaborating with OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder on this loving, hopeful track makes it one of my personal favorites on the entire record. The overall tone is gorgeous, the piano-vocal duo creating its own dynamics through the lushness they create. Checking in: have you cried yet?
- “Water Under The Bridge”
Another faster-paced track, this is arguably stadium-ready with its lifting chorus and echoing, gospel-tinged vocalization. It’s a fun track while still maintaining the essence of Adele’s songwriting, this time about coming to a relationship crossroads. Expect this one to be a go-to anthem in concert halls.
- “River Lea”
This Danger Mouse-produced song is interlaced with southern gospel sounds, including electric organ and haunting whispers of background vocals. The repetitive nature of the song’s title is also akin in a way to songs of that style, working its way through the song in catchy, interwoven ways.
- “Love In The Dark”
Using strings to emphasize its heartache, standard love ‘n loss ballad protocol comes into play on this track. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking simultaneously, with lyrics like “Please don’t fall apart/I can’t face your breaking heart/I’m trying to be brave/Stop asking me to stay” flowing along naturally with the orchestra.
- “Million Years Ago”
The token acoustic track of the record, it’s the vocals that (not surprisingly) shine through on this song. The building in the verses with low tones and notes lead to a woeful chorus of things that she misses, weeping with its memories. This is a storyteller of a song, with the emotion palpable in every sweeping note.
- “All I Ask”
A driving piano ballad almost tailor-made for the mainstream, this track (co-written by Bruno Mars) is as endearing as it is pleading. Speaking of Mars, I could almost hear him singing a similar tune – perhaps one like his “When I Was Your Man”? Someone sign these two up for a duet, please.
- “Sweetest Devotion”
A hopeful ending to the record (not including bonus tracks, found on the Target edition), it’s a sweet and heartfelt ode to her young son, who can even be heard in the beginning notes of the song. It is reverent in a beautiful, maternal way, big and blossoming with its honest vocals and uncomplicated musicality. It’s a good way to end the album, a usual rollercoaster of emotions but full of love and loss and, in the end, more happiness than heartbreak.
As a whole, the album is a gorgeous addition to Adele’s already impressive roster – but it is also more than that. The album, while sounding similar, is also more mature, full of more complex emotions and variety in tone and sound. It’s well-rounded and utterly enjoyable, something that will be in the record books and on record players for many, many years to come.