ALBUM REVIEW: Good Charlotte, Youth Authority

It’s time to bust out my MADE hoodie and LeVel 27 shirts. Good Charlotte is in the house.

I have been a long time fan of GC, as I have chronicled before (check out my review over The Young and The Hopeless here and my review of The Madden Brother’s Greetings from California here). When I heard they were releasing a new album, I was pretty excited. I could once more hear my mom shriek as she saw Benji and Joel’s tattoos and become flabbergasted by such “hard rock” music from the early 2000’s. Good Charlotte and their image was not quite like the Nsync and Backstreet Boys albums I usually asked for.

FullSizeRenderNow let’s jump back 11 years to the present. I have relentlessly jammed out to GC music since and their last album, Cardiology, had me wondering where the band would go next. Well, wifes and babies is what came next for the members of GC. Unfortunately, I’m still single and my dog died last year.

Furthermore, GC has now released their brand new album Youth Authority. The guys always seem to make an album that stops me dead in my tracks and this album is not an exception.

The lyrics, song choices, instrumentation, and content of Youth Authority have matured from their previous records, but there is still that rebellious flair. The sound of the album may seem lighter at first listen, but the treasure of this record is in the lyrics. This album also doesn’t disappoint in the sound I believe GC created, a universal pop/punk sound.* This is truly an album for the fans.

*Disclaimer: I’m not putting their music down by calling it “pop.” I simply am saying that their music crosses over rock and pop charts causing more people to hear their message and their music. It’s a good thing.

The album begins with “Life Changes,” a song of survival and defying the odds. The key lyrics to remember in this song is “You know that love changes. The pain, it rearranges,” for this sets the tone for the entirety of the album.

From @GoodCharlotte's twitter
From @GoodCharlotte’s twitter

The album then goes into its three singles, “Makeshift Love,” “40 oz. Dream,” and “Life Can’t Get Much Better.”  “Makeshift Love” is a more optimistic and slightly sarcastic take on the GC fan favorite, “My Bloody Valentine.” If only there was a triage for the poor boy in that song. “40 oz. Dream” is an ode to what every 1990’s and 2000’s kid misses about what music used to be. The lifestyles of the rich and famous seemed to have hijacked our sound.

“LIfe Can’t Get Much Better” is one of my favorite tracks off the album. This song comes at a slower pace and contemplates the goodness of life that comes with time. The members of GC have been through a lot and it seems they are finally in a place of contentment with this song.

Flipping the record to side B truly solidifies what GC’s message is with this album. This side opens with “Stray Dogs,” a fun song admitting that our other “halfs” really do make up the best of us. Then we have “The Outfield,” a song directed straight at those of us who were once young and hopeless.

I find “Cars Full of People” and “War” to be the lyrical highlights of this album.”Cars” speaks of the people who reek judgement, but never stop to see the actual situation. This is a song of survival and it contains a middle finger to all naysayers. “War” speaks of the war we go through in our lives, but also the war one is willing to pursue for others. Underneath these lyrics this is a song of love and loyalty.

Thus, I find this album to have three resonating themes: survival, finding yourself in others, and never-changing who you are.

First we have survival. The members of GC have survived many hardships and they faced a  lot of people who didn’t think they could make it, let alone last. This is obvious in tracks like “Life Can’t Get Much Better” and “Moving On.” All members of GC have found themselves in different industries flourishing with success. They have survived this storm and proven many wrong.

Inspiring liner notes from Benji Madden.
Inspiring liner notes from Benji Madden.

Next is how the guys have found themselves in others. It’s all about love and hugs here. So many of these songs are what I consider “you” songs, which are songs that point to someone else who has helped you discover who you are while becoming inseparable to who you have become. They make fun of themselves over this topic in the song “Stray Dogs” while getting serious in songs like “War.” This aspect was also obvious in “Makeshift Love.” On the surface, this song is about a bad relationship, but it is set in the past tense.

Lastly, there is the theme of never-changing who you are, amidst any circumstance. Each member of GC’s lives has taken a 180 since we last heard from them, yet their music still carries the same demeanor and they still play on the same topics. The difference with this album is that their lives have now progressed and evolved around these topics. I found this message in “40 oz. Dream” and “The Outfield,” amongst almost every other track.

Right now in my life I have made a huge move to New York. It’s a world of difference from Oklahoma, but I am welcoming the change. I am progressing. Sure I have my naysayers and a huge fear of failure, but I know I will make it somehow. I’m working toward the lives GC has found and this album inspires the strength of perseverance within me.

Thank you Good Charlotte.

Although, in retrospect, when looking at GC’s entire career, this album has inspired me to move on and realize great things are in store like…

Life. Love. Truth. Trust. Faith. Pride. Love.

MUSIC PLAYLIST: Wrapped in Garland

I love Judy Garland.

There is just something about her voice that completely entrances me every time I hear one of her recordings. She is one of the greatest vocalists and entertainers our world will ever see and in my opinion, she is the best.

Most people know Garland from her career defining role in The Wizard of Oz. She filmed this movie for MGM studios when she was a mere 16. This role catapulted her into super stardom and her signature song “Over The Rainbow,” sung by a kid willing to dream, was cemented in the hearts of every American. She would go on to make countless classics for MGM including Meet Me in St. Louis, The Harvey Girls, and Easter Parade.

Some of my Garland records.
Some of my Garland records.

Although that is not where my fascination with this vocal legend started. I am a fan of her later years in show business, mainly from 1951-1969, the year she died. Throughout these years she was less known for the movies she made, but for her live performances. She did make some amazing films during this period like A Star is Born, but they were few and far between compared to her days at MGM.

When I was in elementary school I watched the Judy Garland Christmas Special on TV, but it wasn’t until my middle school years that my mom bought me the CD Judy At The Palace. I was immediately hooked from her rousing renditions of “Rock a Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody” and “Get Happy.” Then there was her encore encore of “Over The Rainbow.” Hook. Line. Sinker. I have collected every Garland vinyl since then.

So I have decided to compile some of my favorite Garland performances and bring them to you here. Some are cliché of most Garland fans, but some are rarities that I hope you will surprisingly enjoy.


“Down With Love”

This is a recent favorite of mine. Her catalog is so large and her recordings seem endless. She did this on her ill-fated variety show. It’s a good “screw you” to all the men that had mistreated her throughout her life, not to mention CBS’ treatment of her during filming.


“When You’re Smiling”

Garland opened her legendary concert at Carnegie Hall with this number in 1961. This live album, Judy At Carnegie Hall, is her most legendary album, which is an ode to the brilliance of her performances. Since there isn’t a video recording of this concert I leave you with this version. She often opened shows with the this joyous number and it shows off her comedic chops.


“By Myself”

Garland’s version of “By Myself” is superb compared to everyone elses’. She feels each note with consistent emotion and the ambition to move forward with life. This is another song she sang from personal experience. Her performance is pure perfection. It is sad that CBS cut this number from one of her shows because they thought it was too dark.


“What Now My Love”

Garland’s vocals nearly blew me out of the window when I first heard her rendition of this classic. She first approaches it with a veil of vulnerability, but ends with a shroud of confidence. The closing note of the song gives me chills.


“As Long as He Needs Me”

This song has been a long time favorite of mine. I have heard it sung by many different ladies and I haven’t found a version I didn’t like yet. There is something different about Garland’s approach though. Her rendition shows a different side of Garland. We’ve seen the bitter and empowered Garland through her song choices. Her raw emotion in this song portrays her desire to be loved and  to not be seen as a commodity. She didn’t want to need someone. She wanted to be needed.


Every time I unearth a new Garland recording, or hell, every time I listen to Garland I am always amazed. There are no words that describe my admiration for this amazing lady and how her vocals penetrate directly to my soul. We all have that one artist and for me it will always be Judy Garland.

These performances are just barely a peek into her extraordinary career. I am so thankful that we have all these performances from her variety show. These performances are some of the last glimpses we have of this legend and sadly they are her last great recorded works.

As I come to a close I would like to remember Judy Garland in this form. I have read books and watched documentaries on Garland’s life and they always focus on her troubles. I think this is unfair. Garland lived a magnificent life doing what she loved to do: entertain. Through her gift she continues to touch thousands of lives and through this gift she paved the way for modern entertainment.

I’m simply wrapped in Garland.

Check out My Other Articles on Garland:

Oscar Got Away

Pristine Till Death

ALBUM REVIEW: Joan Jett, Bad Reputation

Recently I was lucky enough to walk away with six Joan Jett and the Blackhearts records. One of my favorite vinyl shops, Monkey Feet Music, has just received a lot of 6,000 records. Needless to say when I get paid, I’m making another trip.

FullSizeRenderOne of the albums I picked up was Bad Reputation. After doing research, I found that this album was actually Joan Jett’s self titled solo debut. This album is her first album after leaving The Runaways.

The album’s opener is the Jett classic “Bad Reputation.” This is one of my favorite Jett songs and is a great anthem to sing while driving to work. There is nothing like yelling, “I don’t give a damn about my bad reputation!” right before walking into a dreaded business meeting.

Although what really stood out to me on this album was Jett’s covers of the 1960’s classics “You Don’t Own Me,” “Shout,” and “Woolly Bully” (Technically “Shout” was released in September 1959, but I figured it was close enough). These songs were recorded off the heels of rockabilly, so it is only natural that Jett would pay homage to these founding songs years later.

IMG_2476When listening to anything that Jett touches, you must remember there is rock and roll and then there’s Jett’s version. Her version mixes a punk image with a rhythmic guitar rift and gritty vocals. It’s quite unpredictable.

This is evident on her version of “Shout.” No longer is this a cheery pop song, but it’s a rock anthem of rebellion. I love Jett’s clever rewording of the song, “Take my pants off and shout!” I could easily see myself at a Jett concert or in the comfort of my own home hopping around, beer in hand, screaming these words with or without pants. The same goes for “Woolly Bully.” This song was “dirty” for the time, pushing the limits when it comes to content. Naturally, Jett just piles on all the dirt it needs with a dash of her brand of sex appeal creating a version that definitely wouldn’t be allowed in 1969.

Yet, the true gem out of these tunes is Jett’s cover of “You Don’t Own Me.” This song was originally sung by Lesley Gore who I would consider sweet, wholesome, and just plain cute. Those are some sentiments Jett quickly turns around in her version.

IMG_2477Jett gives this song a completely new persona proving that lyrical content often lies in the hands of the vocalist. No longer was it a sweet girl you felt sorry for, this was a girl you were scared of! She became the girl the boys had to fight for and treat right. Jett played by her own rules and she was not afraid to swing a few punches.

In many ways this album and her 1960’s covers only foreshadows the rest of Jett’s trailblazing career. She was already a bull out of the gates with songs like “Bad Reputation” and “You Don’t Know What You Got,” but it is the little things that remind you of the Jett’s true musical genius and artistry.

For her to go back and cover three 1960’s song on her first effort after the Runaways is brilliance. This shined a light directly on her pure musical talent. It shows Jett’s respect for those who came before her, but it also showed she had a complete style all her own, a style only she is capable of.

It’s safe to say Jett truly loves rock and roll and it’s foundation, but she gives it a new reputation.

PLAYLIST: Slaying Since The 60’s, Happy Birthday Cher!

Today is a musical holiday. They should stop the presses, close the banks, and hold the mail. It is the Prime Minister of Pop, Cher’s Birthday.

I am going to take a gamble that you have probably not heard Cher regarded as the “Prime Minister of Pop.” Often times we hear loads of people saying that Madonna is the “Queen of Pop.” Cher fans argue otherwise, but to be honest, being the queen is beneath Cher.

Let’s take a step back into our English Government Class or lack there of. We all know there is a Queen, but England is no longer a dictatorship. Today the title is held mostly ceremonially with limited powers. The position with all the decision-making is the Prime Minister.

In the case of music, we have a queen of pop based on pedigree, Madonna, then we have the Prime Minister of Pop, Cher, who gets sh*t done. Cher was the original female pop star, garnering 3 number one solo hits in the early 1970’s with countless other charting hits. She had a show with her husband Sonny Bono and when that ended in divorce, she had her own popular variety show. At the same time she quickly became a fashion icon with her over the top costumes and hip length straight black hair. She is even the first lady to ever show her stomach on TV.

Cher didn’t need a shock factor. She didn’t have to roll around and moan in a wedding dress. She used her natural sex appeal and underrated vocals to pave the way for future female pop stars.

Today, in honor of Cher’s legacy, I have created a list of my favorite Cher songs. They are not in any particular order, because it is impossible for me to rank them nor is this list conclusive. They go from obscure to huge hits and from the 1960’s to today.

“Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” (1966)

This is one of Sonny Bono’s greatest pop inventions. “Bang Bang” has now been covered by numerous artists over nearly every genre. It takes love and encapsulates it in a child’s arms showing both the simplicity and intricacy of this emotion. Cher “remixed” this song on her 1987 self titled album. I have included the original here, but here is a link to the other. This remix shows how versatile Cher’s vocals are and also how Cher’s voice has grown over her career.


“Classified 1A” (1971)

This song barely ever sees the light of day, but it is one of Sonny Bono’s greatest musical masterpieces. The song tells the story of a woman being told that her husband has been killed in a war. “Classified 1A” was released in the midst of the Vietnam War in 1971. Cher can stylize with the best divas, but the raw emotion she portrays on this recording is hard to come by. She has always has a way of shooting straight to the heart through her deliverance of ballads and this is one of her best.


“Train of Thought” (1971)

This should have been a huge hit! I don’t know the exact story of this song, but it has all the mechanisms of a number one. It’s one of those songs that just gets my blood flowing.


“By Myself” (1973)

Easily one of Cher’s least successful albums, Bittersweet White Light, is a diamond in the rough. Within this album, she visits the American Song Book that she has expressed much love for. This is one of the best tracks from this album, but her Jolsen Melody and her take on “The Man That Got Away” should not fall on deaf ears.


“Take Me Home” (1979)

This song makes me want to go struttin,’ much like John Travolta in Staying Alive. The beat is infectious and roller skates are a must. Mixed with Cher’s sex appeal, this record is classic. She could take me home any day…..


“We All Sleep Alone” (1987)

As children we are taught to aspire to have a spouse and a family. We are surrounded by images of the nuclear family that never really existed. What they didn’t tell you was that we are all alone in the end. While being a dark and cryptic song to say the least, Cher lives this song as her power house vocals lay across this power ballad.


“Save Up All Your Tears” (1991)

This is the best song to belt in your car when you are mad at someone. Try it.


“The Gunman” (1995)

This is one of Cher’s best vocal performances. Her warm voice shivers down my spine as she speaks of love having no mercy. She again shares her raw emotion from experience. It leaves you thinking and hitting the repeat button over and over again.


“Our Lady of San Francisco” (2000)

This song comes from, Not.com.mercial, the only album Cher wrote nearly every song. She sings of a homeless woman and how she is looked at as garbage on the street. She speaks to humanity and how many times we have become inhumane. Helping people with the basics is dear to Cher’s heart as seen in her acts of kindness in countries like Armenia and the current Flint water crisis. To this day this album, has not been widely released.


“Love One Another” (2001)

Okay, only two more. This song is from Cher’s 2001 release Living Proof. It is a “filler” song, but Cher, nonetheless, gives it her all. I think she might just believe in its message.


“Lie To Me” (2013)

Cher knocks another ballad out of the park. This time she doesn’t quite use those soaring vocals that she is well equipped with, yet she stays in a modest tone. The beauty of this song is all in her conviction. This comes from her latest studio album in 2013 and is the only true ballad on the entire album. I love EDM Cher, but her voice is magnificent stripped down.


“You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me” (2010)

Lastly comes one of Cher’s songs that has helped me out the most in life. Once I hit my adult life, I have found myself kicked down by career, relationship, and life choices just like everyone does. It is always easy to back up into a corner, but you can’t. Cher is a living example that lying down is never an option. I’ve had this song on repeat many times and belted it off-key. It is really the best thing that came out of Burlesque. 

As it is often said with Cher: “After the nuclear holocaust there will be cockroaches and Cher.” Don’t let them ever see the last of you.


As these videos and a proper lesson in music history makes clear, Cher is the first female pop star to call all the shots. She pushed the envelope, but she did not need a shock and awe factor. Her raw talent catapulted her into the icon she is today. She became a legend when there wasn’t a legacy to follow.

Basically, she slays.

So on this day we celebrate Cher’s 35th birthday once more. While I’m lowering my flag to half staff, I’m ok with calling Madonna or one of those other little pop starlets the queen of pop. It’s just an honorary title. Remember, everybody on the tball team gets a trophy.

And while queens have tiara’s, Prime Ministers have headdresses, because you don’t need to see what’s around them while you follow. There is nothing to see. They are paving the way while walking into uncharted territory.

But as always, the wise Cher summarizes her contemporaries perfectly.

Follow this you bitches.

ALBUM REVIEW: Tina Turner, Tina Turns Country on!

There is barely any debate among music critics and listeners wheather or not Tina Turner is an impeccable artist. She has a style that cannot be replicated and a legacy that is sealed into society’s consciousness. Find me one person that doesn’t know when to shake their head during “Proud Mary” and I’d be shocked.

IMG_2377There is more music that often goes unnoticed from her career between being a solo superstar with the album Private Dancer and her tenure with the Ike and Tina Turner Review. Between the years of 1974, a year before she divorced Ike, and 1984, the year “What’s Love Got To Do With It” went number one, Tina recorded multiple albums to little success.

The first of these albums was Tina Turns The Country On! This album finds Tina at her first solo experiment. When looking at music history and the history of Tina’s style, the choice to release an album of country and western covers does not seem like the obvious next step in her career. Yet this album speaks volumes of where Tina was at in 1974 and also widens her breadth as a vocal artist.

This album comes right at the end of Ike and Tina Turner’s marriage. Their popularity had waned in the 70’s due to Ike’s frequent drug use, which resulted in missed and postponed shows. Tina was beginning to build her nerve through inspiration she had found through Buddhism which was the budding of her independence.

That’s the diamond in the rough when it comes to Tina’s first solo album: independence. For the first time, she was given the most freedom on how she was going to conduct herself as a muscian.

Tina Turns The Country On! is completely…country. Tina knows country because she was brought up in Tennessee, but I don’t think anybody was expecting her to sing it. Each song is a cover of a country hit with a new arrangement and that arrangement was…country.

Tina Turner, the queen of rock and roll R&B, now had twang.

IMG_2378I could see Tina doing a twist off of Ray Charles successes from his early 1960’s country themed albums, but I didn’t expect a performance I would have readily seen on The Wilburn Brothers Show or The Johnny Cash Show. I was expecting a blended mix of early R&B and country, but instead she fit in perfectly right next to Loretta Lynn.

There are three levels of Tina within the album and with each level she becomes more…Tina. I call the first level “Mid-Tina.” This level finds Tina singing with the roughness we have all grown to love, but mixed with smooth twang. We find this on the songs “Bayou Song, “If You Love Me Let Me Know,” and “Don’t Talk Now.”

Next we venture into “Tina Turned Up.” This is the Tina we generally find in her earlier recordings with Ike Turner. These elements are found in songs such as Bob Dylan’s “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” and Hank Snow’s “I’m Moving On.”

Lastly, we have “Tina Turned Down.” In this level, Tina demonstrates her chops for delivering straightforward and easy masterpieces. This level contains all my favorite songs from this album. First she sings a vulnerable and rousing rendition of Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night.” Her voice is as smooth and liquid as melted butter. Her performance of this song finds her vocals in their most purest form. It is like they come from a child.

Tina-Album-Tina-Turns-The-Country-On-Promo-02Then there is the hopeful Dolly Parton cover “There’ll Always Be Music.” I could easily see a choir erupting behind Tina at any moment during this recording. Her genuine love of unadulterated music is on complete view. She then closes out the album with “The Love That Light’s Our Way.” This song eludes to the concrete truth that love will always prevail and lead the way, a sentiment that was muddled for Tina at this time. Her vocals in this song will convince anybody, that truth and love always prevails, something she still believed deep down.

This album begins to encapsulate the independent artistry of Tina Turner. It shows that she was not only a musical interpreter that crossed genres, but one that can reach the furthest of human emotions in the same fell swoop. She takes country music, flips it on its head, reconstructs it, and sings it her way, but she was still under a jail cell.

Her later solo efforts were to be completely independent of Ike Turner in all regards. This album shows that all you need sometimes is to let someone shake their own tail-feather and to never restrict someone to be a private dancer. This artistry within Tina was nearly untapped and it was time for the world to hear it.

It was time for Tina to be Tina.

ALBUM REVIEW: Merle Haggard, Okie From Muskogee

Recently I had a conversation with my mom about how if I married a girl from CA and had a baby there, the baby would still be half Okie. Well mama tried to explain to me that being an Okie isn’t quite a “race,” but that it is a term to designate where you’re from.

I agree to disagree.

IMG_2195As I sit and contemplate the loss of Merle Haggard this concept has never rung more true. Haggard was well-known for his hit “Okie From Muskogee,” but his relationship with the red dirt did not begin or end there. His parents were from Oklahoma, mostly between the Checotah and Muskogee areas. They moved to California to avoid the dust bowl.

Not too long after they moved Merle was born. They lived in a box car that they had transformed into a home. It was a humble beginning, yet it was laying the foundation for one of the greatest first hand songwriters music will ever witness.

He may have been born in California, but both his parents were Okies. He was raised Okie. That’s all his parents knew. Wouldn’t that make him full Okie?

Throughout Haggard’s life he proved to have the core values of being an Oklahoman. These values include dedication to family, hard-work, respect, being thankful, nobility, and sometimes a little beer. Oklahoma values run deep and they don’t live within borders.

My concept that being Okie runs deeper than where you were born and raised is evident in one of Haggard’s most heralded albums, Okie From Muskogee.

Haggard opens up this live recording from Muskogee’s Civic Center with “Mama Tried,” his musical apology to his Mama for all his mishaps. This number one hit has more than just success behind its name. The deeper layer of this song is the power and meaning of family.

IMG_2198Then he goes into a rousing rendition of Jimmie Rodger’s “No Hard Times.” This song is for all the working men and woman who do all they can to make ends meet. It is the perfect companion song to the “Workin’ Man Blues” found later in the album. Labor created Oklahoma and labor sustains it. If one questions this notion just go visit my friends down in Indiahoma during harvest. You’ll quickly hush up.

A concert from Haggard is never complete without “Silver Wings,” one of my personal favorites from his catalog. He sings this song nearly effortlessly with barely any harmony. The grit is real in this song. For me this song is reminiscing on the past and never forgetting those who laid the foundation for where you live and who you are today.

Haggard then touches on something most Oklahomans have in common, a good drink. He introduces a melody of songs saying they are for the drunks. Haggard properly encompasses this idea in his medley of “Swinging Doors,” “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive,” and “Sing me Back Home.” We’re not drunks in Oklahoma, but a nice drink every now and then is essential for the majority of us. And then there are those nights….

Side B has many highlights, but two songs in particular make this side profoundly Okie. First comes “Billy Overcame His Size.” This song tells the story of a young man of small stature named Billy. The song goes on to explain how although Billy’s brother received an athletic scholarship, something Billy could not achieve due to his size, Billy did something even bigger. He died for his country.

IFullSizeRender 2n Oklahoma your neighbor’s problems are your problems. We never shy from giving a helping hand from holding the door open to towing a car out of ditch. This is personified in the Oklahoma standard that has been seen through the Oklahoma City Bombing and various tornado out breaks. We never abandon our own. We always overcome our size.

Lastly Haggard serenades the crowd with “Okie From Muskogee.” The song everybody in the audience was waiting for. Although, this song is much more than a catchy ode about the lifestyles of Oklahomans.

This song is about respecting your elders, supporting your country, and staying true to your roots. This song posses the elements of pride, a noble character, and the God-fearing qualities that the majority of Oklahoman’s possess. It is about being proud of where you came from and thankful to those who got you here.

We don’t balk at what has been given to us nor the authority we rightly belong under. We give credit where it’s due and if that means supporting our country then give us a flag and a shotgun. We love our country, our family, and our way of life. That is something to die for. Haggard understood this.

This is just the tip of Haggard’s profound career and what he created. I join the country in mourning one of music greatest songwriters, performers, and musical talents. His legacy cannot be explained by words alone. I do not claim to be a Haggard expert, but I am truly proud of the example he set for his listeners. He wasn’t perfect and he never pretended to be, but he always had values.

American values. Oklahoma values.

If there was only a little more Okie spreading around, a little more Haggard, this country may just be a better place.

God Bless the Hag.

ALBUM REVIEW: Adele, 25

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.

Adele, 25But 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.

adele-hello-video-xavier-dolan-tristan-wildsNext 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.

Adele-adele-29997410-500-375The 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.

photoNext 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.

adele_2013-650-430d-1That 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.