January 24, 2011

10 Musical Thoughts on Adele's 21

How any record will top Adele's second album, I'll never know. Let's hope someone is up to the task... 21 is one of the finest albums in years. Here are ten favorite moments on ten solid songs, in no order:

Rolling In The Deep
, literally the best first single from an album in many a year, is spiked by wicked Ikette-ish backing vocals. There was a rumor, since debunked, that the voice is Roisin Murphy. This is not insane: it really does sound like Roisin, though I presume it's actually Adele. I always sing along with those bits. Handclaps (2:30ish) never hurt.

Rumour Has It, which sounds like a Paul Epworth production (those drums!), but is actually a Ryan Tedder track, is perhaps the most sophisticated thing he's ever twizzled. Like a play within a play, Rumour has a song within a song. The middle eight (2:13) is sweeping and grand. The Patsy Cline moment when her voice cracks - "people say cra-azy things" - is sublime.

Turning Tables is perhaps the song that leads into this album from Adele's debut, 19. The bridge to the chorus ("I can't keep up with your turning tables...") is instantly classic - a perfect arrangement of notes. The final moments of the song are a quiet, foreboding piece of drama.

Set Fire To The Rain sounds the most like 2011. A Fraser T Smith production (he is hot hot hot right now), it's slick but the melody is gorgeous. All of Adele's songs could be stripped bare and revealed to be more beautiful. Like the last song, I think it's the bridge to the chorus that pleases me most: (:44) "There's a side to you that I never knew, never knew..."

He Won't Go, rightfully declared the Mary J Blige Moment by, well, everybody. You know what makes this? The bass. Or is it actually a keyboard on the chorus that steps. right. up. like a bass? Musicians, what is it? I also love how the song rolls open on the middle eight.

Take It All is an Elton in the 70's homage. This is all about the voice. The pièce de résistance moment for me is at 3:16 the way she drawls out the word all on the line "just take it all with my love."

I'll Be Waiting is kind of Laura Nyro, for those old and New Yorky enough to get the reference. Laura Nyro meets... Carole King. The middle eight is sublime, but its great moment comes at 3:19, when "I left you speechlesssssss" lifts the song up onto its platform heels. And then it marches away.

One And Only passed me by the first time I played it. It's like another Elton John song, if bluesier. But then I had a cathartic pop moment when I recognized the hair-raising middle eight at 3:24, with the truest words on the album: "I know it ain't easy giving up your heart... Nobody's perfect, trust me I've learned it." The choir sends it right over into a crying scene. Me, not Adele. She holds it together. Note: this is my favorite moment on 21

Lovesong is a brilliant way to follow the previous song. Why write a love song when the definitive one exists? Adele strips it down and maintains the undercurrent of melancholy. Love isn't easy. She really emphasizes the intimacy on the repeated line "Whenever I'm alone with you." Grown up love.

Someone Like You, for me, all comes down to one stanza she repeats a few times during the song: "I hate to turn up out of the blue invited / But I couldn't stay way, I couldn't fight it / I had hoped you'd see my face / And that you'd be reminded that, for me, it isn't over." The way that she tips that last word over at 2:32 is perfect. Beauty. Sadness. The whole lot.

21 is out now in most places except the USA, where it's out Feb 22. Insanity.


Alexandra said...

i can't wait to listen to the album! i love rolling in the deep so far:) she has an amazing voice!!

dishy said...

Pre-ordered from US Amazon not shipping until 2/22 !!!! BOO FUCKING HOO! That is one of the best pieces you have written. I am all over this release - may have to get the import!

xolondon said...

Alex!! [waves]

Oops I had no idea that there was a month's delay in the US. HOW old school!

Michael said...

I guess Adele's US label needs an additional month to figure out how to fail to promote her in the States.

Mike said...

Agreed with it all! Really an amazing piece of work. The only song you didn't mention is "Don't You Remember" - I think it fits in nicely and really represents the bluesy/country vibe of the album.

countpopula said...

Maybe it was a good thing Adele didn't release her album in the states this week. After all, the east coast is having some TERRIBLE weather.

That being said, I think this is up there as one of the best new albums of 2011 to come down the pike (along with Cut Copy and Destroyer), even if UNCUT magazine saw fit to award it only 2 out of 5 stars. Blasphemy!

I thought Rumour Has It is the best song of its kind since KT Tunstall's Black Horse & the Cherry Tree, and deserves to be a big hit, along with Set Fire to the Rain. Not as keen on Love Song, but a nice gesture, nonetheless.

Alexandra said...

so, i read the blog post before i actually could listen to the album; now i have two or three days of constantly listening to it... and wanted to see again your comments about the songs! guess which is my fav?:)) the last three tracks i think they are perfect alltogether, like a perfect play list:) pure delight...