It seems like yesterday that Adele was struggling to hold onto her six Grammy awards, when it was almost impossible to turn on the radio and hear anything but “Someone Like You” or “Set Fire to the Rain.”
It also feels like an eternity since we’ve heard anything new from her. Apart from her title theme for the movie Skyfall, Adele has been mostly absent from the music scene since the release and subsequent promotion of her masterpiece 21.
Almost five years later, Adele’s return to the music scene was one of the biggest in modern pop, with the video for her newest single “Hello” being viewed over 27 million times in its first 24 hours. The video also came with an announcement: her new album 25 was going to be released less than a month later.
Thematically, 25 moves into some uncharted territory for Adele. She sings on her new role as a mother, making up and giving up on past lovers, and the growth pains associated with coming into adulthood.
With 21, Adele was known for emotional, instrumentally minimalist breakup songs. Adele has stated that she sees 25 not as a breakup album like 21, but as a make-up album. This shift in theme shines through in her lyrics.
Songs like “Remedy” and “Love in the Dark” show a much more emotionally resilient side of Adele, though the music sounds like it would fit right into the somber themes of 21.
Musically, 25 feels like a blend of her previous albums, 19 and 21. Many songs feel similar to songs from 21, with backbones of piano, guitar and vocals. However, 25 takes some cues from Adele’s debut by introducing more layered, occasionally electronic instrumentals and a bit more genre variance than was present in 21.
This variance can be a bit hit or miss. Songs like “River Lea” and “Sweetest Devotion” show that Adele can mix up her instrumentation and still retain the Adele feel.
Other songs, like “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” and “Water Under the Bridge” are pop ballads that feel a bit too clinical. They’re fun to listen to, and would make good radio singles, but they don’t have much of the underlying emotion that make her songs timeless.
Despite some musical missteps, Adele’s voice consistently manages to amaze in 25. Adele proudly displays her impressive range and ability to capture a song’s emotion in her tone.
Her voice also feels more nuanced than it has in earlier albums. Partly the result of production differences, 25 has more instrumental focus than 21, and Adele knows when to fade her voice back and let the song breathe.
This can be contrasted to songs from 21 like “Rolling in the Deep” and “Don’t You Remember,” wherein relatively minimalist instrumentals accompany Adele’s booming voice.
25 may have some misguided tracks, but it is what fans would expect from Adele, overall. Fans of old albums will be satisfied with the new material, and new listeners wanting to know what all the hype is about will be happy to discover that Adele Adkins does not disappoint.