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Is 21 really better than 19? – Adele

When I was 19, I often thought of how much better 21 would be.  The freedom I would obtain, being able to travel anywhere and drink fully legal at any bar would be awesome I told myself.  I would no longer be restricted from anything! Gambling, booze, smokes, I could do it all and finally claim that I was indeed an adult.  But just because something is good the first time around doesn’t mean what follows is necessarily going to be any better.  It could prove to be more of the same, or just as good in a different and unexpected way.  Such is the case with Adele Adkin’s sophomore album 21.

I recently purchased Adele’s new album.  The title chosen is indicative of her age when she wrote the songs that comprise the album, and it sounds like a mature yet heartbreaking evolution.  So far it has received numerous, positive reviews as a sophomore album but although some songs are genuinely beautiful I find the album somewhat disappointing.  Gone are her whimsical, flippant lyrics, this time around we hear more of her soulful side.  It is a raw and heart felt album yet her cover of The Cure’s Love song doesn’t seem like one of her best efforts. It seems slightly overdone and turns a simple song into an exaggerated ballad. In my opinion, an impressive cover should contain elements of an artist’s personal style while maintaining the original rhythm and melody of the song.  Remain recognizable, but with some sort of twist.  Adele on this particular track seems to be merely singing karaoke along to a well-known favourite of Cure fans.  Which is a nice rendition, just not necessarily album material.

However she has managed to capture my loyalty as a strong believer in her talent with songs like Rolling in the Deep and Someone Like You.  The songs that open and close 21 are strong, beautiful and greatly contrast what Adele is trying to say.  Adele has stated that this album, like 19 was about a breakup.  So her lyrics include her threatening “You’re gonna wish you had never met me” and how they could have had it all as well as the sorrowful revelation “I had hoped you’d see my face and that you’d be reminded that for me – it isn’t over.” These conflicting emotions paint a very realistic portrait of a confused broken-hearted woman who is simply trying to recover and sort through a whirlwind of doubt and internal dialogue.

Although the song’s subject matter is nothing new, Adele’s voice lends more depth to what she is singing.  Her hurt and suffering united with the tragedy of growing apart and falling out of love ring truer than most gullible, lovesick poems about loss by young women in the music industry.  Despite Adele’s current age her voice seems wise beyond her years, influences such as Etta James can clearly be heard in her music.  Reminiscing about bittersweet memories through song seems much more tolerable when Adele is the woman singing the tune.  She conveys her pain in a genuine and sincere voice that is believable.  You sense that her feelings are real as you hear her voice break, as if she’s choking back her tears.  But this album is not all forlorn feelings and regret.  You can hear her indignation and strong will on Rumours and Set Fire to the Rain.

My prediction is that Someone like you will be the epic song for every heart wrenching movie of 2011.   I strongly feel that this is a melancholic ballad, capable of making even the coldest heart melt, and that it’s simplicity and conversational tone is comparable to her previous hit My hometown.  Barry Walters of Spin has given Adele credit for “wailing harder and writing bolder” on this album even if it is about another doomed relationship, in which she loses the boy and sings plaintively “Don’t forget me, I beg I remember you said sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead.”

Adele may have matured and grown wiser with 21 but I miss the good old days when she was 19 and a hopeful daydreamer.  Let’s hope her next record will be a little less sorrow, a little more joy but just as painstakingly beautiful.


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