Adele’s ‘25’ is a perfect combination of soul, pop and passion

The years-long wait is over as Adele reclaims her throne as queen of soul-pop

By Katherine White | Nov. 24, 2015

Tags: Music Reviews

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Human nature is to compete with those at or just above one’s own level. But for pop empress Adele, her biggest competitor is her past self. Her sophomore album “21” won seven Grammys and its hits are still playing on pop radio as if the album had just been released yesterday, instead of almost five years ago.

As thousands of preorder notifications popped up on music fans’ phones late on Thursday, the question on everyone’s lips was: Can “25” possibly live up to its hype? Even Adele herself told the BBC that she “got really worried” that she was “never going to make anything that anyone liked again."

If the opening track gives any insight, the answer is a resounding “yes.” “Hello,” the only song officially released before the album dropped, became the first single to ever sell over 1 million digital downloads in its first week. Even the video shattered records when it received 27.7 million views in its first 24 hours, beating Taylor Swift’s music video for “Bad Blood.”

The track’s backdrop is a simple piano progression and an equally straightforward drum beat. Any pop or soul song could have this backing, so what separates “Hello” from the rest — aside from the years-long hype — is Adele’s iconic vocals. There’s something about her passionate, soulful belting that makes listeners want to either sing along or cry while staring at a downpour of rain.

“Hello” is only the beginning of an album that is sure to please Adele fans and members of the Recording Academy alike. “21”’s killer combination of scarily talented vocals, powerful messages to ex-lovers and mix of several genres such as soul, R&B and pop returns to create exactly what one would expect from an Adele album. Top 40 pop stations, low-lit coffee shops and the dorm rooms of fans who waited since middle school for this record will certainly be filled with its sound for quite a while.

The second song on “25,” “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” exemplifies Adele’s supremacy over the mix of soul and pop music. The track features acoustic guitar, layered vocals and snarky lyrics. It’s the kind of pop that’s repetitive, sassy and made to be sung with the window down when it comes on the radio for the fifth time during your day out. Unlike some songs that fit this category, it is also a genuinely good song musically.

The rest of the album tends to veer in the dramatic, piano, ex-lover anthem direction of “21” or in the soul, contemporary, coffee shop direction of “19,” combining the best of both Adele worlds. While this is one of the album’s greatest strengths, it’s also a weakness, as variety in Adele’s discography is lacking. Although keeping a fairly similar style isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does leave something to be desired.

“25” doesn’t take long getting to its soul side; “I Miss You,” the track right after “Send My Love (To Your New Lover),” makes use of a slower drumbeat and “Hello”-esque belts. The closing track, “Sweetest Devotion,” is the perfect soul jam, combining echoed vocals, lyrics about a deep love and even a twangy guitar to end the album with a bang. “River Lea” is an equally enjoyable song, its title referencing the body of water an hour drive from Adele’s previous residence in West Norwood, that will have you swaying and clapping in no time.

“Water Under The Bridge” also brings a new musical genre to the table, taking a pop twist on Adele’s typical soul formula. This song will easily make its way to radio airwaves, featuring a heavy drum beat, light electric guitar and, of course, Adele’s passionate vocals. On the coffee shop side of the genre, “Million Years Ago” is an acoustic track sure to be on the playlist of every Starbucks in the nation.

The piano-centered tracks also impress. “Love In The Dark” is one of the best on the album, thanks to its combination of lonely lyrics about love, soulful melodies and an emotional chorus. When BuzzFeed inevitably publishes an article titled “All songs on Adele’s ‘25’ in order of how good they are to cry to,” this song will certainly top the list. Close behind will be “All I Ask,” “When We Were Young” and “Remedy,” all sentimental piano-based ballads.

“25” combines Adele’s strengths into a great follow-up to her previous successes. Fans of her soul side and her melodramatic ballad side alike will find tracks to enjoy. It wouldn’t be surprising if the 2017 Grammys fawned over the record like they did with “21.” However, if you were never really into the Adele phenomenon, this album is unlikely to get you on board; it is in a pretty similar style to her other works. That said, it’s definitely worth a listen, as it may turn out to be one of the best albums of 2015 — just remember to grab a box of tissues first.

MOVE gives “25” 5 out of 5 stars.

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