By Erin Moyer || Senior Editor
Hello, it’s me. I was wondering if after all these articles, you’d like to hear from me. Well, you’ve probably heard enough from me, actually. But you know who you can expect to be hearing a lot from now? Adele.
Adele is back on the scene– and, I presume, back on the charts– four years after the release of her uber-acclaimed album, 21. We all need to appreciate what a difficult position Adele was in after 21. It was an absolute masterpiece, earning mass praise, general adoration, and six Grammys. Suddenly, there was not one “break-up” song. Adele gave us the break-up album genre, a tour de force all dedicated to her bracing, confessional songwriting and consuming anguish. How was she supposed to follow that?
Answer: Don’t even try. Sure enough, Adele knew not to. She took some time off. She had a baby. She met someone new.
And with 25, Adele has made something new. 25 stills feel like the Adele you remember: that pure, powerful voice, that almost old-fashioned refusal to bow to typical pop music conventions, and, of course, that old fondness for dressing in shades of gloom. This album feels like an authentic glimpse into Adele’s life, all its joys and sorrows, growing pains and poignancies. 25 is not heart-broken, sobbing-into-your-pillow sad the way 21 was, don’t get me wrong. But the album has an unmistakable ache to it all the same. What Adele captures that resonates with me most, I think, is that life really is just sort of sad. Leaving home, growing up, moving on with your life, those are all big moments. But Adele understands the gravity, the wistfulness, attached to those moments, too. She takes nothing for granted. And that recognition of sadness is what makes life, and 25, something fragile and lovely.
25 is filled with rollicking piano, inventive production, and trades equally in diverse themes of self-growth, self-doubt, loss, joy, and nostalgia. “River Lea,” for instance, captures how you can never really go home again, even when home made you who you are. “Love in the Dark” drips with self-loathing and regret, as Adele leaves a dead relationship with the command “Take your eyes off of me so I can leave/I’m far too ashamed to do it with you watching me.” The steadfast, healing love depicted on “Remedy” and “Sweetest Devotion” even gives us sweet, touching glimpses into Adele’s motherly contentment.
If you’re like me, the tracks that you’ll like the most are the ones that most prominently feature Adele’s voice. The soaring, plaintive choruses on “Hello,” “When We Were Young,” “I Miss You,” “All I Ask;” those are the money-makers for you. “Water Under the Bridge” is also a funky departure from Adele’s repertoire of torch songs. The lilting “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” is a rather jaunty, “wish you well” bid to a former flame– perhaps the poor soul who so ripped her apart in 21— who could never seem to keep up with her. It’s all good, slightly sassy fun, but the track’s mix seriously overshadows her vocals. This isn’t Taylor Swift we’re dealing with here, friend. Adele can more than sing on her own.
25 may occasionally invoke cliche, true enough, but you won’t even mind. Even when Adele threatens to tip over into melodrama– as on “Million Years Ago,” in which she mournfully sing-songs that “Life was a party to be thrown/ But that was a million years ago”– she will still win you over. She will still reach that not-yet-corroded part of your heart that secretly loves to indulge in cliche.
With 25, Adele reminds us of both unbearable lightness, and the unbearable weight, of being. As The New York Times’ Jon Caramanica wrote in his review of 25, Adele names her albums after her age, not to “indicate radical changes from era to era,” but instead, to “[reinforce] the reassuringly slow march of time.” How lucky are we to have an artist like Adele to capture this slow march of time for the rest of us. And how lucky are we, fellow college students, to have this album in our own time of mass change and self-examination. 25 gives us the ultimate in bittersweet, in the wistful catharsis of moving on. And Adele does it all, as The A.V. Club’s Corbin Reiff put it, with a voice that demands to be heard.
Senior Erin Moyer is the Senior Editor. Her email firstname.lastname@example.org.