Label: XL Recordings/ Universal Music
Price: Rs 395
ADELE Adkins is like a textbook on vocal culture. Right from the pure texture of her voice to her enormous range, from the sheer power of her phrasing to her mastery over expression, she stands miles ahead. Check ‘When We Were Young’, the fourth song of her latest album ‘25’. Filled with remorse and nostalgia, it’s a lesson on how to dance back and forth between the lower and higher registers, without showing the slightest signs of strain.
The album is filled with vocal beauties, gentle orchestrations and fantastic production values. Yet, there’s something that stops it from getting the five-star review that its predecessor ‘21’ richly deserved. Much has to do with the fact that she repeats the low-high alternation formula a few times, and uses similar themes on many songs. On top of it, there’s nothing quite as memorable as her earlier hits ‘Rolling in the Deep’ or ‘Set Fire to the Rain’.
It actually takes a few hearings for the album to sink in. It would also be ideal to keep a lyrics sheet with you, though sadly, the inlay card doesn’t contain the words. On initial listening, only two songs sound different, because they are more uptempo and unlike the trademark Adele style. On the Swedish-pop influenced ‘Send my love (to your new lover)’, she tells her former lover, “I’m giving you up, I’ve forgiven it all, you set me free, ohh.” And on ‘I Miss You’, she sounds sensuous on the lines, “I want every single piece of you, I want your heaven and your oceans too.”
The songs are essentially about relationships – strong or sour. The opening track ‘Hello’ is a clear indication of things to come. For a few seconds, it almost sounds like she has been inspired by Lionel Richie’s same-named superhit, but Adele takes it somewhere else. Here, she tries to come to terms with an old love, and yet there’s a bitterness when she sings, “They say that time’s supposed to heal, yeah, but I ain’t done much healing.”
On a completely opposite tangent, ‘Remedy’ is dedicated to her son. A classy piano-driven ballad, it brims with lines like, “But when the pain cuts you deep, when the night keeps you from sleeping, just look and you will see, that I’ll be your remedy.”
The album has many other highlights. Set to a simple acoustic guitar, ‘Million Years Ago’ sounds like a Madonna-esque song with traces of jazz and French music. On ‘All I Ask’, co-written by Bruno Mars, she is accompanied by two pianos. Again, she’s filled with lament and retaliation, as she sings, “I don’t need your honesty, it’s already in your eyes, and I’m sure my eyes, they speak for me.”
On ‘Lea River’, produced by Brian Burton aka Danger Mouse, her singing is outstanding when she repeats the words ‘The River Lea’ many times. ‘Water Under the Bridge’, dedicated to her boyfriend Simon Konecki, has a mid-tempo discoish feel and sweeping choruses.
On ‘Love in the Dark’, she sings, “There is so much space between us, maybe we’re already defeated” to the backdrop of a haunting string section and orchestra. Finally, on ‘Sweetest Devotion’, Adele says, “You’re my life, you’re my darkness, and you’re the right kind of madness, and you’re my hope, you’re my despair, you’re my scope, everything, everywhere.”
In many ways, each song of ‘25’ seems to be flawless. Yet, there is something missing in the overall effort. There’s a repetition that creeps in, both in the compositional style and the subjects. But it doesn’t detract from the fact that Adele is one of the most outstanding singers of this generation. It’s all in those pipes and how she modulates her voice. She’s someone that every aspiring female singer should look up to, irrespective of her genre or language.
RATING SCALE: * Poor; ** Average; *** Good; **** Excellent; ***** Simply outstanding