I’m going to admit it.
I’ve never listened to Adele.
Sure, I’ve heard drunken renditions of ‘Rolling In The Deep’ and you can’t really ever escape her belt echoing across every radio station in the UK. I’ve seen her lyrics plastered over twentysomethings’ Facebook statuses when they’ve broken up with their significant other. I’ve never properly listened to her – or at least done the kind of ‘albums on repeat for months, crying for days on end’ kind of listening people seem to do.
But she’s back, and the hype around her is bigger than ever. With 25 hitting our iTunes stores and HMVs across the country on Friday 20th November, I’ve decided to give her a try. So join me as I listen to her hotly anticipated new album, 25, track by track, for the very first time.
I’ve heard snippets of this one on the radio, and in six-second vines turning every syllable into a punch line. I’m immediately struck by how conversational it is. I feel like she’s speaking to me, and I know it’s not written about me, but I feel like it kind of is. She’s drawn me in from the very first word, and although I know it was probably written in a studio in London somewhere, when she tells me she’s in California dreaming of how we used to be, I believe her. The chorus is nothing short of booming; her belting voice is accompanied by sparse backing vocals and a muted drum and it all has me raising my eyebrows in surprise. With the echo effects put in during post-production, I think this would be incredible live.
Favourite lyric: “I hope that you’re well, did you ever make it out of that town where nothing ever happened?”
2) Send My Love (To Your New Lover)
Guitar. What? I was not expecting this. I’ve always assumed she had an NDA in place that meant she couldn’t even mention instruments that aren’t a piano, drums or a string quartet. If you’ve ever heard ‘Girlfriend’ by Avril Lavigne, it feels like the grown up anthemic version of that. It’s a song all about acceptance of the end of a relationship, and letting go. It makes a refreshing change to the bitter, relentless songs you often hear in the Top 40 these days. I’m honestly surprised by how much I love this song. The guitar picking mixed with the claps in the chorus gives the song a laid back, easy vibe that makes me want to sing along and declare my maturity in the face of heartache, too. It’s simple, it’s fun, and I’m a fan.
Favourite lyric: “we gotta let go of all of our ghosts, we both know we aint kids no more”
3) I Miss You
The former music student inside of me is squealing happily. The drumbeat in this is a lot different to your standard pop beat, and it excites me more than it should. Along with the weird howls/screams in the opening and the effects placed on the guitar, it creates an eerie, dangerous vibe to the song. I’m struck by how expressive her voice is. From the second she begins singing; you know the tone of the song. There’s something inherently sexy about this one, and in the verses I feel like I’m intruding in on a private moment between her and a partner. I only wish that the accompaniment had progressed somewhat, because it stays the same throughout with the exception of a piano solo at the end of the song.
Favourite lyric: “Bring the floor up to my knees, let me fall into your gravity”
4) When We Were Young
This song is bordering on clichéd, but I can’t find it in myself to care. I’ve realised that Adele has this way of being vague enough about a situation so her songs are applicable to anyone in any situation. She’s also simultaneously specific enough to target that one raw memory from five years ago that you’d tried to bury in the corners of your mind, but as soon as she starts singing, it hurtles to the forefront of your mind. It’s heartfelt and genuine, and when it finished, I felt like I’d been on an emotional journey of nostalgia and loss with her. This feels like the prequel to “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)”, before she learnt to accept that her relationship had ended.
Favourite lyric: “Everybody here is watching you because you feel like home”
I feel like I need to point out the obvious at some point; she can sing. Oh, can she sing. Her range is absolutely insane, and the warmth and tone of her voice is so unique. As the album as progressed, I’ve realised that no matter what the content is, I can trust her to not mess up the vocal lines.
This song predictably starts with a piano. All jokes aside, the waltzing rhythms are relaxing and provide a beautiful backing for her voice. But that’s when I started to tune out. I heard the first few lyrics, and wrote it off as another love song.
…. And just when I was thinking that I would love to hear her sing about a love that isn’t romantic, she delivers. I tuned back in somewhere around where she proclaims that no river is too wide or deep to swim to you. After a frantic Google, I discovered that this song is actually a song dedicated to her son. Suddenly everything shifted, and a wave of appreciation and love for my own parents hit me. How wonderful to be her son, and to be Adele knowing that for the rest of his life, he will always have a reminder of her love.
Favourite lyric: “Come whatever, I’ll be the shelter that won’t let the rain come through”
6) Water Under The Bridge
The guitar has made a triumphant return, and I think I prefer it. This track feels very contemporary in comparison to some of the piano tracks, and it feels like it was written for performing, with the ‘woah’s backing the chorus begging to be screamed out by fans crammed into a standing pit. The chorus is catchy, one you’ll probably be murmuring under your breath as you walk around the shops the next day.
Favourite lyric: “If I’m not the one for you, you’ve got to stop holding me like you do”
7) River Lea
I really, really didn’t like this song.
To be fair, the accompaniment is really pretty and the beginning was definitely an interesting direction to take the song. I also enjoyed how soulful the chorus is, and as always the backing singers complement her voice perfectly. But at one point I heard something about having reeds for fingertips and kind of quietly lost hope. The repetition of River Lea feels whiny and monotonous, and by the end of the song, I was glad for a change of speed.
Favourite lyric: “Sometimes I feel lonely in the arms of your touch, but I know that’s just me cos nothing ever is enough”
8) Love In The Dark
The piano is back!
My favourite songs on the album so far are the ones that are the most conversational. It’s a heart wrenching song discussing the feeling of having to leave that all of us have probably been through at some point, and she pinpoints every feeling perfectly. She’s targeted my weakness for a good string quartet with the accompaniment and solo in the bridge, and when the song ends I wish it hadn’t. Another intimate, gorgeous song.
Favourite lyric: “It’s the world to me that you’re in my life, but I want to live and only survive”
9) Million Years Ago
This song has a Latin vibe to it, and at first I wasn’t too sure. I’m definitely sure now, though. It’s another song that shows off her incredible range and the expression of her voice. At one point she bitterly laughs her way through the phrase ‘It’s like they’re scared of me’, and for the first time listening to the album, my heart clenched.
This is how I expected all of her songs to be; it’s unashamed wallowing, discussing how much she wishes she could be a different person and who she misses, but somehow, it doesn’t sound as whiny or self-involved as I thought it may do. Placed in the context of songs surrounding it that speak of growth and acceptance, it feels natural and needed. A beautiful song.
Favourite lyric: “I feel like my life is flashing by and all I can do is watch and cry”
10) All I Ask
Every so often, you hear a song that makes you stop and really listen. You can’t do anything until it’s over. This was it for me. This song sounds so much like “The Winner Takes It All” by ABBA, and I am so very okay with that. I hadn’t realised it before, but I’ve been waiting for a key change to happen for the entire album. And when it happened in this song, it felt like everything was right.
This song has my favourite piano accompaniment of them all. It’s nothing short of perfect. The entire song is. I’m actually kind of left speechless by how much I love it. I had to relisten to it to get any worthy feedback onto paper, and even then I wrote “KEY CHANGE!!” and underlined it three times. Probably my favourite song on the album. I don’t think I can pinpoint anything wrong with it.
Favourite lyric; “It matters how this ends, ‘cause what if I never love again?”
Rating; 10/10. Seriously.
11) Sweetest Devotion
I had to start this song again, because I thought I had made up the child’s voice in the very beginning, echoing behind the synth. But no, its there. Interesting. Children aside, this song has an incredibly good groove, and I could imagine it on the radio. She belts the chorus out, as always, and I think this is the first time on the album where I’ve found myself thinking ‘yes, I know, you can belt out the notes. What else?’. I’ve already seen what else, but I don’t know if it’s enough. The lyrics in this are quite cliché, but this time I’m not sure if I can let it slide this time. I am, however, a sucker for a good ‘home’ lyric, and this album gives me that in droves.
The song has been over for a solid 40 seconds, and the children’s voices were at the end of the song, too, and I’m struggling to find the reason why. When All I Ask as such a gorgeous, heartfelt confession, this song feels underwhelming to end on.
Favourite lyric; “there’s something about the way you loved me finally feels like home”
There’s a reason that 25 sold 2.3 million units within the first three days of release. Last week’s number one, Made In The AM by One Direction, set the record for the highest debut in one week sales of the year, coming in at only 93k units sold. Adele probably did that within an hour of the clock striking midnight on Friday.
It’s good. But then again, I expected it to be good with those kinds of statistics. Some songs, such as All I Ask and When We Were Young were heart wrenching and left me pausing to regain composure before I continued. Others, such as River Lea, will probably not be played again. It wasn’t the emotional rollercoaster I thought it would be, but then again, it seems to me that her music and subject material has matured on her break from music. If you’re like me and had never listened to Adele’s albums before, then I would urge you to do it. Overall, you won’t be disappointed.
Overall rating; 7.5/10
Author: Jessica Tansley