Adele Strikes Gold Again on 30


British soul-pop legend Adele returns after a 6 year hiatus with 30. Despite her stardom, Adele releases are pretty rare, this being her fourth since 2008. Adele has managed to simultaneously remain one of the most popular artists of the decade, while living her life out of the limelight.
Because of how infrequent they are, Adele releases are huge events. Adele has struck a formula for doing huge numbers on the charts, creating massive hits, and leaving the entire country heartbroken for weeks, all while keeping the music at the core of it personal-
And that’s what makes Adele such a great artist. Adele drops what she wants to, when she wants to, and rarely disappoints. Despite some attempts on 25 to go in an overtly radio friendly direction, Adele has a pretty consistent track record of amazingly written, produced, performed, and executed chart topping singles.
Songs like ‘Rolling in the Deep’, ‘Rumor Has It’, and ‘Someone Like You’ are all some of the best examples of pop song writing and vocal performance from the last decade., with Adele proving her status as a top-tier singer time and time again.
Adele‘s newest record, 30, follows the birth of her child, as well as her divorce to longtime partner Simon Konecki, which are both driving themes on the record. And with all of this sentimental fuel, it should be no surprise that Adele keeps up her impressive streak.
The album opens incredibly strong with the track ‘Strangers By Nature’, a gorgeous organ-led gospel cut, that immediately reminds us of Adele’s strengths. I’m going to mention it a lot, but Adele’s voice is truly heavenly, and ascends beautifully on the bed of violins that swoop in at the chorus. The reverb soaked, hypnotic vocals on the hook add to the chamber-pop atmosphere of this track, and the sudden fade of instrumentation is a shockingly beautiful moment, that cements this track as one of the best on the album.
The following ‘Easy on Me’ was released as the albums sole single, and it’s just as good as the opener. Heartbroken, disappointed lyrics, gorgeous pianos, and a fiery performance from Adele make this yet another solid ballad in her discography.
Adele then seems to get a bit indulgent, with the track ‘My Little Love’. While not a terrible track, it was definitely made for Adele more than it was for her fans, which is a sense I get from most of her music. It seems like she almost uses her music as a form of therapy, and this track especially feels like a meditation on her child. While heartwarming, this track doesn’t offer much outside of the context of the album. That being said, it’s a remarkably cute and pleasant experience.
The next track, ‘Cry Your Heart Out’ is kind of a difficult one for me to understand. It blends a lot of genres, with 50’s doowop background vocals, soulful pianos, and tropical beats that all blend together in a somewhat tacky way. While I can appreciate the ambition, and it’s somewhat enjoyable, I don’t think this song really works for me.
This same criticism falls on ‘Can I Get It’, which I loved until the 1:06 mark, when it suddenly transitions from one of the most interesting country-pop crossovers I’ve heard from a major artist, into a super cheap, generic guitar progression and obnoxious hip-hop beat. Things only get worse on the chorus, with a most terrible millenial-pop style whistle beat and paper-thin drum loops. After such a promising opening, it ended up with all of the wo=rst qualities of an AJR track. This track is poorly produced, poorly conceived, and a waste of potential.
The album picks up immediately with the song ‘Oh My God’, which is a satisfying combination of Adele’s older styles and newer hip-hop production. Chipmunked vocal samples and thumping bass drums on the verses and a stadium sized chorus, complete with a stellar vocal performance and a driving, almost house-style beat prove this to be one Adele’s best pop songs. The way that she updated the sounds of her older hits, and updated them in a fun and interesting way proves that Adele is still a force to be reckoned with creatively.
‘I Drink Wine’ is a passionate, swinging soul cut, with bouncing pianos, and Adele showing off her storytelling skills, as well as her impressive upper register. This song feels lively, personal, and drunk with heartbreak. This track also feels like Adele using her music as a diary of sort, or something for her to let her emotions out, as all of the lyrics on this track have to do with Adele’s current state. Not necessarily a huge standout for me, but still a super solid track.
‘All Night Parking’ is a brief, sample heavy interlude, with 90’s background vocals and an attitude-ridden performance from Adele. This track reminds me of the spacier cuts from Ariana Grande’s Sweetner, with its spacy atmosphere and heavy production. It’s a decent tune, and a much needed palette cleanser before the absolutely devastating last leg of this record.
The next track ‘Woman Like Me’ suffers a little bit from it’s lack of instrumental diversity, but the dramatic and revealing storytelling is extremely compelling. This song doesn’t offer much in the way of a performance of sticky hook, instead it has a smoky and mysterious aura that conveys the story a lot more interestingly.
The next two tracks are over six minutes in length, and both are among my favorite Adele songs ever. ‘Hold On’ especially so, with it’s frank, raw instrumentation, and production that makes the track seem like it was recorded live on a stage, with Adele in the spotlight. The background vocals have a ghostly echo, the bass and drums kick in perfectly, and it’s gradual progression to it’s euphoric chorus is one of the most satisfying and tear-jerkingly beautiful moments I’ve heard from an artist this big. Adele cries out heartbrokenly as instruments join her one by one, and amalgamate into this utterly explosive, and organic climax of sound that leaves me stunned. Again, the production carries this song far, as the reverb and cracking on Adele’s voice really set the stage for this track to impress like it does.
Adele gives another one of her most impressive vocal performances ever with the track ‘To Be Loved’. This track brought me to real tears. Adele flexes her massive range, and her ability to capture with the power of her voice alone. The calls of ‘Let it be known that I tried’ at the end of the track see Adele pushing her voice to new heights and volumes I have never heard her attempt, and it goes over amazingly. This track is also clearly made with recent events in mind, with the most heartbroken, frustrated, and focused performance of the entire record. No matter how happy you are with your relationship, hearing Adele borderline crying on a song about her divorce is enough to get you to relate. This track is a lavish, passionate, and deliberate ballad that pushed Adele into an even higher echelon of vocal performance.
The closing track ‘Love Is A Game’ is a very fitting conclusion for 30. Extravagant beds of strings and organs, quirky background vocals, and swelling crescendos add to the soulful, yet fun feeling of this song. The bass and drum in the background give this song more of a swing than the last few tracks, but the subject matter is just as sad, making it an interesting juxtaposition to end the record on.
30 was an extremely enjoyable record. Adele is one of the few artists working at her level that releases music of the quality she does, and it is such a refreshing thing to see. This record is in some respects an evolution of Adeles sound, while in others being a straight callback to the music that inspires her. I loved most of the music on this record, and the songs that weren’t necessarily for me were still admirable in some respect.
This is one of the most impressive popular releases in the genre of soul, pop, and every blend of vocally focused music. I think I kind of loved it.
BEST TRACKS: Strangers By Nature, Easy On Me, Oh My God, Hold On, To Be Loved, Love is a Game
WORST TRACKS: Can I Get It Cry Your Heart Out