"30" is beyond my expectations, it's a varied, coherent, poignant album that won't let you get bored. Adele tries new directions, without losing her heartbreaking music that makes her who she is, which is : Adele.
When I think of Adele, I think back 10 years, it's like a time capsule that makes me live thousands of thou-sands of memories. On a less personal note, I remember very well the popular impact of her album "21" and the phenomenal hype of her songs on TV, on the radio, on public transportation, even in the public restroom of a highway service station. Everywhere. Yes I probably listened to Someone Like You more than a hundred times unintentionally, it was just unavoidable. Although I've listened to other Adele albums, for me I can't really detach myself from this period, as if her career could only be summed up in this (which is not true in reality). The London singer built her success in my opinion thanks to her divine mezzo-soprano voice and also by the emotional power of Pop Soul delivered through a tortured melancholy. People needed an icon to take over after the unfortunate disappearance of Amy Winehouse and Adele has excellently fulfilled this role with her own personality. Adele has always taken time between each album, first of all because of the need to promote and ensure the success of each one with numerous tours and awards. There are 4 years between her second album "21" and "25" and normally there should be the same space between this last one and "30" but the health situation has forced the artist to take more time. These 6 years of absence resounds as infinite in the music industry of today, mainly for her fans and the expectation around her new album is considerable, which makes the listening of this album a little special. Personally I was not at all conquered by "25", therefore "30" was a real question.
As usual (and this is not a surprise unfortunately), this 4th album shares the same characteristics as the previous ones, that is to say songs of love, of break-up precisely in a very sad atmosphere. "30" focuses on the last relationship with her ex-husband which lasted about 7 years and her maternal vision concerning their son they had in common. It's a collection of introspective ballads, often heartbreaking, sometimes heartwarming on the other hand, a range of topics that comfort her in her comfort zone. On the other hand, we can appreciate the fact that Adele writes from the heart, on absolutely intimate and personal subjects, which between us remains one of the positive ingredients of her music. This is definitely her trademark and I think it was unexpected to expect something else. On the one hand if Adele sang that the sun was beautiful and that everything was fine in her life, maybe it wouldn't work as well, I don't know. So it doesn't matter if Adele remains herself, the important thing is that she surprises the listener in other ways. If "25" had abandoned a bit the more retro Pop Soul/Rhythms and Blues anthems for very grand orchestral Pop ballads, opening up to electronic attempts in the radio era and desperately trying to reproduce the success of Someone Like You, Adele tries new directions on "30". Overall, the Londoner keeps this Pop Soul backbone to remain consistent, but she lets herself be carried away by relatively controlled risk-taking towards different sounds. "30" is therefore the most versatile album of her repertoire and that's a good point.
To support this renewal, Adele makes "30" sound like a kind of film adaptation, where previous albums were satisfied with a conventional formula of compiling songs without links. To be more precise, "30" is not a concept album, let's say it's more like a story being told with chapters that are linked by common themes. The introduction Strangers By Nature plunges you in a retro universe of black and white film, in the heart of the 40s/50s at the time of the Vocal Jazz and Swing, with a kind of ballad really well thought reminding a mixture of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald tinged with a minimalist gospel. While in a more contemporary register, almost Neo-Soul finally, Adele delivers a performance as personal as touching in My Little Love. Frankly I liked this song a lot, her musical universe is very well done, I'm a big fan of the vocals of the exchanges with her son or the more depressive one that concludes the song. When Adele used to make a jump in the past to deliver a more retro song, it was often on the same basis, here each of the songs has something special to differentiate them. This is the case of Cry Your Heart Out, a ballad combining Soul and Reggae whose realization is still rather effective despite the surprising mixture. Oh My God manages to merge the old Adele with a more dancehall version, almost Afrobeats, reminding Jorja Smith for example. We can also observe this rather different capacity that Adele has to approach thorny subjects with a touch of lightness and optimism, which upsets our habits.
Although I'm not really a fan of the musical colors, nor of the song itself, Can I Get It tries to be a Country-pop / Electronic hit that could very well appear among the future radio playlist. For the moment Adele is 100% in the air of time, but it does not manage to convince. I will come back later on the production, but it is also the only song of the album produced by Shellback and Max Martin, I think we could have clearly done without it. It's typically this kind of risk-taking that I really didn't like on "25", this modern electronic touch that doesn't match its universe. On the contrary, a retro and cabaresque melancholic ballad like I Drink Wine, sounds more logical and more seductive in its totality. We still find this organ that comes to accompany the singer as an indispensable element of the best moments of "30", a gospel touch that gives a soul to the content. Without forgetting, this vocal of conclusion, a real testimony again of Adele on the complicated period that she could cross during her rupture, it is always an additional value. On All Night Parking, Adele lets herself be guided on a sample of the legendary jazz pianist Erroll Garner with some tints of Trap, a rather controlled slip after all.
With a few exceptions, Strangers By Nature by Ludwig Goranssson and Can I Get it by Shellback / Max Mar-tin, the rest of the first part of the album was done by producer and multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin. Three of the last four songs will be produced by Inflo (Little Simz, Michael Kiwanu-ka..) which means that the album "30" assumes its different parts. I would say that overall, "30" offers the most impressive and accomplished production of her discography, even more than "21" when I make the comparison. Let's say that previously, Adele voluntarily navigated on a very authentic atmosphere and sounds that do not necessarily age so well, and I have the impression that "30" will manage to do better on this plan. "25" clearly missed the boat by mixing several different producers, with no logic and coherence between the songs. The difference is that "30" is more adventurous, but it is also better thought out. These are very important positive things in my opinion, sometimes it changes everything. If "25" is an album that I want to throw out the window, "30" has some things to it. So Inflo takes over towards the end of the album with more intimate ballads. It's so smart of Adele to go with a producer who works with the best of the British Neo-Soul scene. Woman Like Me is an acoustic song where Adele unleashes her rage against her ex-husband, while Hold On is a rather nice gospel anthem. Finally Love Is A Game is an infectious Pop Soul lesson that draws its essence from the 60s/70s to bring a touch of optimism in conclusion. Then I didn't mention the single songs Easy On Me. If you've never listened to Adele before, Easy On Me perfectly sums up her formula from these 2 previous albums. A warm piano and sad lyrics to accompany the devastated melody of the singer. On the other hand, one can say that only the ultimate fans will be really satisfied with this song because in my opinion she has already done much better before. I think that finding this formula is explained by the fact that this is one of the first songs written for "30" and that Adele had not yet turned the page from her previous content.
To be honest, I was expecting to listen to a boring and predictable album, but Adele managed to surprise me. That's why I'm generally very happy with "30". I like how she manages to stay herself while taking a step back and thinking about how to distinguish herself from previous albums. Of course you can see that Adele has taken a big dose of maturity, which is logical with age and being a mom for years. I also like the risk-taking although not all of it is successful, the fact that the format of the songs is unconventional, there are 4 songs longer than 6 minutes for example and they don't deserve to be shortened for that. After that, if I have to point out some negative points, I would say that some songs are useless for the spirit of "30". And this is not to offend Adele, but she is a talented artist who has her limits. Her voice is always solid, but I find it not always at the top, it's quite complex to describe. I also find that apart from her thematic universe, Adele is cruelly lacking of personality at times, that is to say that her risk-taking is essentially mastered because she knows what to do not to miss. In any case "30" has more positive points than negative, without unfortunately ever really reaching excellence.