On her life-affirming fourth record, Adele returns in renowned form to create an immersive set of ornate ballads and cinematic pop, drawing heavy influence along the way from …well …herself mostly!!
Adele may be one of pop’s greatest vocal talents of the last decade. And in tandem with her old-soul sensibilities for production and natural story-telling flare, Adele has concocted some of the most iconic power ballads of the last decade. The most obvious of the bunch, Hello, is easily one of the most recognisable songs in the world, PERIOD! And she has plenty more stunners to her name, including the accordingly dramatic and powerful ‘Skyfall’ theme, the beautiful lyricism of ‘When We Were Young’ and the genius caressing of the heart-strings on deeply relatable smash ‘Someone Like You’. But the magic of Adele became very absent from our lives, and so much has changed in the world of music since the monumental success of ‘25’. Not just in music but in all of our lives personally. So when I found out she was releasing a new single in preparation for a 2021 full-length it was surreal to say the least. And with the record-breaking effort of teaser ‘Easy On Me’ she sent us right back to 2015 with yet another anthemic piano ballad that despite being an unapologetically safe pick for the comeback, with more listens I deemed more credit towards its force as a spot-lit moment for the world to remember this captivating voice – and the streaming numbers certainly would not lie! The vast affection towards Adele paired with some VERY exciting live performances teasing the new songs had me squirming in my seat waiting to get my hands on this new record. And after 6 years, it’s finally here baby…
‘30’, a scathingly personal record and diverse experience instrumentally, feels like a reinvention of past Adele-isms; and ode to the past but a mast for the future voyage. On ‘Stranger By Nature’, Adele introduces us to the “cemetery of [her] heart” and opens the album with gracious orchestration and her trademark vocal prowess. But she abolishes my fears of a samey record with that curveballs she manages to land with – namely a handful of gorgeous six-minute tracks that feel more sophisticated and refined in craft than ever. ‘My Little Love’ feels like a melodramatic diary entry morphed into song, and the result is an endearing track built on atmospheric keys and Adele’s warm presence. Next we’re served further surprises, with the anthemic sure-fire hit-to-be ‘Oh My God’ and the groovy, country-twang of ‘Can I Get It’. But the true centrepiece of ‘30’ is its final 3-track run, which has to be one of the most spectacular moments I’ve experienced in music all year. These are not only some of the best ballads I’ve heard over the last few years, but the quality of production is absolutely stunning and evades the somewhat time-constraint feel of past hits that crutched on crisp drums and synthetic strings. No, these tracks feel authentic and meticulously crafted, and the results are just wonderful. Of course, much has to be said about Adele’s vocal performances, as she binds these tracks together with catharsis and technical ability which given her very public love-life’s turmoil is all the more impactful.
Overall, my expectations were blown out of the water on an album that very easily could have been cleanly-cut for pop radio. Instead, Christmas came early with an LP that pours with emotion and glimmers with hope.
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Fav Tracks: Strangers By Nature, My Little Love, Oh My God, Can I Get It, I Drink Wine, Hold On, To Be Loved, Love Is A Game
Least Fav: All Night Parking Interlude