Adele is a tour de force unlike no other. It’s been four years since 21 was released and it still feels like the songs “Rolling in the Deep,” “Rumour Has It,” “Set Fire to the Rain,” and “Someone Like You,” are only a year behind us. She’s won pretty much every award that she’s been nominated for since 2012: the Oscar, the Golden Globe, and the Grammy for “Skyfall,” Top Pop Album for Billboard, just about all of the BMI awards, and the Grammy for Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Female Pop Artist. She’s sold around 2.433 million records for 25 so far, shattering the previous record set by *NSYNC’s No String’s Attached when it debuted with 2.416 million in its first week, and Adele’s record had only been out for three days at the time this review was written, it’s probably immensely higher now.
Tackling similar themes as 21, Adele deals with heartbreak, and having to say goodbye to past lovers, with the vocal intensity she’s always been known to deliver. Though having some of Adele’s most pop-oriented songs, like “Send My Love (To Your New Lover),” the worst track on the record in my opinion, the themes and tone on this record are among the darkest and seemingly angriest that Adele has been yet. The single, “Hello,” in beginning homage to Lionel Richie’s, “Hello,” sets 25 off to a somber tone, with a chorus that delivers, as Adele always does, and forgetting the second track, moves on to “I Miss You,” proving her heartbreak theme to remain true, and the most times true philosophy of having the third track of the album be the main hit.
An interesting aspect of 25 however is how Adele, although mainly sticking to the piano/strings/vocals arrangement, subtly tries out a lot of different genres and styles. While, “Hello,” and “When We Were Young,” might be classic Adele, the latter of which was co-written with Tobias Jesso Jr., as well as the bonus track “Lay Me Down,” which couldn’t possibly sound more like a Jesso Jr. track with Adele on the vocals, whereas “When We Were Young” does a nice job of having it still sound “Adele.” But when it comes to songs like the upbeat-pop second track, the latin-guitar sounding, “Million Years Ago,” or the chorus-oriented “Water Under the Bridge,” Adele shows her slight experimentation side, with some landing and some not-so-much, but bubbly pop and songs with barely any musical elements aren’t my forte, excluding “Million Years Ago,” which is a great tune, as well as “River Lea.”
While I would have loved to hear a Damon Albarn produced record, like it was originally reported, it seems some kind of disagreement happened that resulted with none of the songs appearing on 25. It’s a topic I won’t harp on because I don’t subscribe to the Billboard article-like speculation train philosophy of music news, but although it seems like a Plastic Beach with Adele vocals album isn’t in our radar for any near future, we do get the tracks with Tobias Jesso Jr. and maybe the best track on the record, the fantastic, “All I Ask,” written by Bruno Mars, seemingly drawing inspiration from Grease’s “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and Shirley Bassey Bond Themes, while also showing possibly her greatest vocal delivery yet.
Where it’s important to remember that Adele is in fact a pop artist, there is still a lot of depth in her songs, present in a genre that never usually breaks the surface level when it comes to themes of heartbreak or love. While it may be nice on the next record to see Adele hit other themes, or reckon with the heartbreak, there’s also no reason why Adele can’t keep what she’s got going on right now forever as well, unless winning all of the awards, selling millions of albums, and being known as the greatest vocalist of your generation isn’t your idea of success.