One lone morning around a month or so ago, I opened my Vevo app to much jubilation. There was a new Adele song and video! It was love at first listen. At first I was a little taken aback. I thought she was going to do a remake of Lionel Richie’s classic song and the beginning almost had me fooled.
So Adele is back. I was met with excitement and hesitation. I had been a huge fan of her record-breaking album 21. The Grammys that year were like the Superbowl for me. I nearly screamed at the top of my lungs when she won album of the year. If she had not won, I was prepared to organize a campaign to boycott the Grammys. I had a Facebook page ready to go live at any moment.
But I couldn’t help being nervous and hesitant over new music from Adele. I didn’t know how she could ever top 21 or come close. I was afraid she was going to have gone “commercial” and that the songs would not be sung or written from her heart and soul like the rest. I had faith in Adele. The Adele of 21 would always be there, but I have also witnessed record companies ruin artists.
I was met with the complete opposite. As Adele has stated, “if 21 was a break-up album, then 25 is a make up album.” This is essential in understanding the themes and concepts of this album as a whole. She truly makes up with past and who she is within the walls of this album
When I first heard “Hello,” I knew we were in for another extraordinary album. I love the build up of this song. It starts out with just Adele’s vocals and simple piano chords. The song steadily goes up a mountain of trials and regrets. Then you have the chorus and climax that take this song off the cliff. This song proves that true belters still exist. This is a perfect first single as it promises Adele’s loyal fans that she has not lost her center.
“Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” is an outlier in this album. It does not fit into the album musically, but the song adheres to the concept of the “make up” album. As I was looking over the liner notes, I noticed that this song was produced by the famed Max Martin. That explains the extreme rhythmic dance feel to this song, as well as the slight over production. He is the man behind such classics as “…Baby One More Time” and more recently “Shake it Off.” In the end, it’s rhythmic, almost reggae feel is addicting, but I just don’t find this truly Adele. The words get lost in translation.
Next we have “I Miss You.” The opening percussion of this song sets the song for a
dramatic console for Adele’s vocals. She contemplates on how she misses someone even though they are gone. She also gives us a taste of her beautiful head voice in the lines leading up to the chorus. I like how this song is stripped of heavy piano elements like much of her music. The percussion gives Adele’s vocals a new back drop that they thrive under.
The next stand out of the album and now the apparent second single, “When We Were Young” is the sequel to “Someone Like You.” Whereas “Someone Like You” hinged on the immediate emotions of the breakup and the finding of someone new, this song focus on an encounter years later. The song returns with strong piano riffs and melodies, and also mirrors “”One and Only” in its gospel vibe. Then there is that one note…..everybody who has heard this knows what I’m talking about. I won’t ruin it for you.
The piano keeps coming with “Remedy.” Adele’s vocals effortlessly combine with the piano into a stand alone instrument. The repetition of the piano riffs mirrors “Turning Tables,” which is due to Ryan Tedder (an Okie!) being the cowriter on this song as well. This song has many more highs and lows. Adele offers herself like she never has before in a song. She wants to comfort the one she loves by being her partner’s remedy. She is offering her love with no regret. This is something new we haven’t seen from her lyrically.
The first song on side B is “Water Under The Bridge.” This song now shows a strong Adele, basically asking what the hell? She asked to be let down gently, because the love she feels isn’t over, yet he still seems to be playing her on with different actions and emotions. The song again ventures off Adele’s typical style with more percussion and replacing the piano with more synthesiser vibes. Lyrically, this song is the prequel to “Set Fire to The Rain.” She still wants to rescue what her and her partner have, but needs to know the direction. She does not have anymore time to waste.
One of my favorite things I love about Adele is the way she intertwines themes in her albums over time. You watch her mature with her music. “River Lea” is today’s “Hometown Glory.” The River Lea is a real place located next to where Adele grew up in the United Kingdom. In “Hometown Glory,” Adele talks about the strength of a small town and what she learned from it, but in “River Lea” she is showing how that story now finds itself in her relationships. She is simply an extension of her roots. This song has a strong bass beat that really flavors up Adele’s vocals into something mystical. “River Lea” is a collaboration of Adele and the producer, Danger Mouse. An odd pairing that created a stirring art work.
“Love in The Dark” finds Adele with a full-scale orchestra. This is a song of strength. It can almost be the levelheaded, mature answer to the full album 21. She explains how she can’t act anymore within a relationship, but she can’t deny that it has had a profound impact on her life. She shows strength with heart. She is not coming from just her own borken heart, yet she wants to end any future or current pain for her partner as well. This song’s orchestral arrangement lifts Adele’s vocals into a hard, yet sentimental place.
Next there is “Million Years Ago.” Instrumentally this song is simple, consisting of an
acoustic guitar and bass. The song gives off a folk vibe with a tip of a Spanish tango and some eerie chanting. This song personifies a soul lost. She is trying to put the pieces of her life back together by returning to her roots, yet she seems to be ashamed of what she’s become.
“All I Ask” is a stirring and contemplative piano ballad. Although many of Adele’s songs may be considered ballads, I find this to be the true stripped down, full on emotional ballad of the entire album. She is simply asking that if this has to be the last night she is with someone, she wants to end it romantically just in case she never loves again. This song clearly shows a heart deep in the ocean of love and she does not see herself finding air again.
“Sweetest Devotion” ties the whole album together and is the perfect conclusion. In the previous songs, you find happiness, regret, strength, hardness, vulnerability, and pure heartache, yet this song isn’t about any of that. She explains how she finally has found the face she has been looking for all her life and it is that of her son. This song shows how love can overcome anything. Although she reminds us, the journey matters. Adele’s vocals take on another image. You can sense the journey of life within her vocals, yet more prominently, she sounds full of contentment and happiness.
That is the message I walk away from this album with, hope. That torn up man, who was comforted by the lyrics from 21, is still here and there is no denying that Adele still deals with her own hurtful past. That hurt person is still inside her, but she is surviving and overcoming. She’s made up with life.
Since 21 Adele has gained a new title, mother. I feel terrible saying this, but I was almost afraid we would have an album of “Because You Loved Me” moments. I was wrong in every sense of the word. She is a different person, yet she is still in tune to where she is from, where she has been, and now where she is going.
Adele leaves her audience with hope in 25. She reminds me to never forget my origins and to learn from my past. She also reminds me that life is not going to be easy, it will continue to ebb and flow, but that my best days are ahead of me. Through strength, ambition, and courage, I will never be defeated.
This album is what happens when you truly set fire to the rain.