Review: Adele’s ’25’ lives up to all of its expectations

21 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Adele still mines heartbreak masterfully on ’25’.

Every track on her highly anticipated “25” sounds grand, from the piano tune “Remedy” to “Water Under the Bridge,” which is layered and full of echoes and sounds as if it was created just to be performed live.When British singer Adele reintroduced herself last month after a four-year absence, time seemed to stand still. “Hello,” the first single from third studio album “25,” shattered records previously held by the likes of Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus. It’s the first song to rack up more than 1 million digital sales in a single week. “Hello” is the perfect first single, capturing everything we love about Adele.

Adele’s 25 hits stores, and while the album is available for purchase on CD through retailers or download through digital music merchants, it’s apparently not being made available on the leading streaming services. Her record label has made it clear that, at least for the time being, the album will not be available for streaming on Spotify, Pandora or any of the other similar services.

Max Martin, who has created pop anthems for Katy Perry, Britney Spears and Taylor Swift, sounds unrecognizable on “Send My Love (To Your New Lover),” which has Adele on guitar. Bruno Mars and his producer cohorts, Philip Lawrence and Christopher Brody Brown, work more than magic on the R&B-flavored “All I Ask,” another piano tune that immediately grabs your attention. “Sometimes I just feel it’s only me, who never became who they thought they’d be, I wish I could live a little more, look up to the sky, not just the floor,” she sings in her top-notch tone.

The 11-track album is not a far stretch from “21,” the singer’s best-selling 2011 album that helped her reach nearly impossible heights in contemporary music. “Love In the Dark,” written with Sia collaborator Samuel Dixon, is reminiscent of “Turning Tables” from “21”; she’s looking back on “When We Were Young,” which sounds like a pop classic; and the drum-filled “I Miss You” is eerie and moody — in a good way. The counter to that argument is that the track still broke into the seven digits in sales despite being available on Spotify, Apple Music, and other services. Adele’s representatives haven’t commented on this, but the answer probably lies in the unique position that the British singer finds herself in right now.

With 21, she matured into a soulful blues singer – bouncing between rollicking stompers like “Rumor Has It” and emotional piano power ballads like “Someone Like You”. And falling out of love is my favorite way to feel as well,” she told me in 2009. “I used to feel really empty if I didn’t have a guy in my life — whether it’s just a fling or having a crush on someone.

It created a pop culture moment that we don’t experience very much anymore: everyone seemed interested in the song, from the youngest music fans to the oldest across many demographics. That crisis was averted by Apple changing its mind — deciding to pay royalties for the tunes consumed during Apple Music’s lengthy three-month trial period — but that’s obviously not the case here.

Despite the fact that Adele is young—she’s 27, and part of the generation who has always expected to get music for free, whether via illegal downloads or streaming—her audience seemingly covers all ages. Whether Adele’s camp feels that abstaining from participation on streaming sites will result in more actual purchases or that chasing the digital payouts aren’t worth it, this move deserves watching. And while older generations tend to consume new music less actively than younger people, they remember “event” records, albums whose release seemed to be a bona fide occasion, whether it was from Michael Jackson or Bruce Springsteen, Madonna or NSYNC, Guns N Roses or Pearl Jam. And they are likely excited about the rare occurrence of an album release that equates to one of those sorts of “events.” Perhaps even enough that they will go out to whatever retail outlet still stocks CDs, and pick it up.

If more major artists bow out — or even hold back from making their tracks available through at least the first few months of retail availability — it could set the streaming revolution back. No one expects streaming video platforms to host all of the worthy available content, but folks also pay far more for cable and satellite television than they do for satellite radio or any other premium audio offering. There haven’t been many albums as hotly anticipated as this one in recent years, and team Adele is clearly hoping that that anticipation will lead to the public reverting to a behavior that’s seen as nearly quaint in 2015: actually paying for music. There’s a glossy ’70s sweep throughout it and much of the album, adding soul to so many heartbreaking lyrics. (“Let me photograph you in this light/In case it is the last time/That we might be exactly like we were/Before we realized/We were sad of getting old.”) The Danger Mouse-produced “River Lea” has a gothic quality that evokes long coats and windswept hair.

The Ryan Tedder-produced “Remedy” harks back to debut album “19” with its spare piano and somber delivery. “Million Years Ago” is the album’s most devastating moment, a powerful and poignant ballad that’s destined to shatter hearts. Spotify now has more than 20 million premium subscribers worldwide, and Apple is up to 6.5 million paying users even though it’s been charging folks for less than two months (the service launched at the end of June, but everybody gets three free months).

That voice is amazing – big and venerable all at the same time – as they send everybody out of the studio and have her alone with one guitar or one piano. It’s followed by “All I Ask”, a legend-cementing piano ballad that shows Adele’s massive voice off in a Whitney kind of way. 25 is a grown up record way beyond the age attached to it. Unfortunately for some that comes with less “play time” and foot-tapping, but luckily it still shows Adele in her rightful place – as the biggest voice in music.

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