Quick Review: 21 by Adele

Even though I listen to a good amount of music, it is still somewhat rare to find an album that really captures my attention. The latest new album to achieve this status is 21, is the recently-released album from British songstress Adele (Adkins). The album has been on the Billboard charts for three weeks since its release, peaked at #1 and now sits at #2 in the Billboard 200. A few thoughts about this album which I have been listening to non-stop for a week:

1. The overall theme of the album is heartbreak – but it sounds like a soulful, engaging sort of heartbreak, the kind you actually might want to hear about over and over again.

2. I particularly enjoy several of the songs. The two songs to open the album are quite good and will make good radio singles. But two songs in the second half of the album are also quite good: Track 7, Take It All, and Track 9, One and Only. Track 7 is just Adele and a piano. Track 9 adds some other instruments but still is just Adele and her feelings.

3.  The arrangements on these songs, similar to the first album, are set up to showcase Adele’s voice. Even when she deviates from the melody, it doesn’t sound like she is preening or showing off.

4. Speaking of the songs, I read a review (or a couple) that mentioned how a lot of the songs sounds alike. I can kind of see the point: once you get past the first two songs, the rest mine similar lyrical ground and primarily feature Adele. This is not an album that has a lot of twists or turns with multiple styles of music or words. My thoughts on this are that the album doesn’t deviate from what Adele does well. To get something different, we’ll have to wait until the next album.

5. One thing I like about the the whole album is that it is unified and does seem to fit the title, a reference to Adele’s age when much of this was put together. This is exactly the age in which you would expect to hear about these upfront and raw emotions. I hope Adele can continue this age-related trend on future albums; this would give us a sort of lifecourse approach. While I think many musicians do this (check out how the themes and styles change as musical artists age and are no longer the young stars they once were), Adele’s first two albums have been more explicit about this. So can the next album, presumably something like 23 or 24,  examine the quarter-life crisis?

(According to Metacritic.com, this album gets “generally favorable reviews” with a composite score of 76 out of 100 based on the thoughts of 29 critics.)

(A side note: I believe the next music album I will review is Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs. While I have heard a lot about this band in recent years, I bought this album, the first one I have purchased, on the same day I bought the Adele album. There are two reasons I want to listen to and review this particular album: the band gets good reviews and the subject matter, suburban life, is right up my alley. As far as I know, there are not too many rock albums that explicitly address the suburbs.)