Adele is Back and Better Than Ever
Issue 7, Volume 112
Adele is a storyteller. Since the release of her first studio album, “19” (2008), she has captivated audiences with her powerful lyrics and jaw-dropping vocal abilities. From “Rolling in the Deep” to “Chasing Pavements,” the British singer-songwriter consistently captivates the whole music industry, putting listeners in a beautiful yet heartbreaking trance. After a six-year hiatus, Adele is back and better than ever. “30,” her fourth studio album, is a deep, raw, and emotionally immersive experience that shows how Adele has truly grown up.
Rather than the general discussions of love in her previous work, Adele’s new album is about “divorce, babe, divorce,” and unapologetically so. In “30,” Adele struggles with love in its many forms—from parenthood to identity to heartbreak—and all of the feelings that ensue. Grappling with doubt, fear, loneliness, she navigates change at every avenue of her life, producing a painfully honest album that, despite its pointed subject matter, strikes a chord with every listener.
Despite the many themes it touches on, “30” is an impressively cohesive album, maintaining a nice balance between ballads and more upbeat tracks. “Strangers By Nature” is an excellent album opener; lyrically, the song is outstanding, and the dissonance in the harmonies makes it rich and full. Adele ends the song by saying, “alright then, I’m ready,” marking the beginning of her emotional journey within this album. “Easy On Me,” the lead single from “30,” is the essence of Adele, with a steady piano backing showcasing her vocal agility. The subject matter, however, deviates from her previous albums, as she now realizes her own faults within her relationships. The focus then shifts from Adele to her son Angelo in “My Little Love,” which includes gut-wrenching voicemails that see Adele highlighting her own imperfections. The music lets the lyrics and conversations speak for themselves, making the song unique and personal.
“Cry Your Heart Out” marks a stark change in rhythm and musicality from the previous tracks, featuring a more jazzy chord progression with a solid drum beat, acting as a message to both Adele and listeners to slow down if you must. Though this song is strong, it is quickly overshadowed by the track following it, “Oh My God.” Drums and clapping tonally match the lyrics’ message of having the time of your life and not letting anyone suppress your spirit.
On “I Drink Wine,” Adele delivers a soulful ballad in which the singer reflects on her life from childhood to present day, starting the track off by questioning “How can one become so bounded / By choices that somebody else makes,” while reckoning with the turmoil of emotions and immense change brought on by her divorce. The message is brought to life by Adele’s powerful vocals and the lush, gospel-like instrumentals.
“Hold On” features Adele's raw, haunting vocals backed by a simple piano, which builds to a lively chorus, both in its instrumentation and vocals. The song is confessional and cathartic, as Adele reveals her feeling of self-doubt and hatred, singing "I'm my own worst enemy / Right now, I truly hate bein' me." She follows these deep verses with an empowering and painful chorus where she begs herself to "hold on" and "let pain be gracious."
Aside from working with her previous producers Greg Kurstin, Tobias Jesso Jr., Max Martin, and Shellback on “30,” Adele also collaborated with Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson and Inflo from the English band Sault. The key to the production on this album was balance: not letting the vocals overpower the instrumentals, and vice versa. Whether a track sported layered production or simple instrumentals, it never felt like any element was lacking. It was refreshing to hear all of the classical instruments featured in these songs and their interplay with Adele’s vocals, especially now when many new pop albums are becoming increasingly synthesized.
Adele is known for being a powerful singer, and she delivers across all of the tracks on “30.” Hearing the singer return to her full vocal health is wonderful, considering her history with vocal damage. In 2011, she developed a hemorrhaged polyp on her vocal chords and had to undergo a very risky vocal cord microsurgery. Fortunately, this succeeded and saved her career––her vocal strength and agility seems like it is fully up and running today, considering her televised concert “An Audience With Adele,” where she gracefully performed both old and new songs.
“30” is Adele saying “hello from the other side” of divorce. The album is a journey in and of itself, as she goes through the motions of an identity crisis, questions the validity of love, and doubts her abilities as a parent in the fallout of her divorce. Adele is older and wiser, but never fails at delivering her unmatchable vocal performances from years prior. “30” is an exhilarating, excruciating, and tragic journey all at once, one—as Adele sings on the closer “Love is a Game”—listeners would do “all again, like I did it.”