Sunday, April 29, 2012
Adele - 21 (4.5/5)
There really isn't anything left to say about it at this point with (fittingly) 21 million copies sold worldwide, is there? I'll just add that while it may inevitably not live up to the massive amount of hype and the juggernaut that its success has become, it is a fantastic pop album and it's easy to see how it's become what it has in the music buying consciousness.
But there being nothing left to say on a particular subject is never a deterrent for me, so let me continue to beat this dead horse...
With "21," Adele and her producers join the ranks of artists like Amy Winehouse, Raphael Sadiiq, Duffy, and probably others I'm forgetting, in creating an old-fashioned soul record that sounds as fresh and vital as if it had been recorded in the late '60s or early '70s. "21" sets itself apart from those other records by relying on the old-fashioned, timeless sound while not sounding fetishistically retro. By using less trickery (or fuckery, to quote Ms. Winehouse) to slavishly re-create this sound and just boiling down the essense, "21" comes off as more authentic than any of the other records in its current sub-niche. None of this takes into account, of coruse, how beautiful Adele's voice is. Its raw intensity breaks and swells to match the lyrics without the pyrotichnics you're prone to be beaten over the head with by other singers who can actually sing.
Truly a fantastic album. It isn't perfect, of course. Adele's lite-jazz take on "Lovesong" by the Cure, while pleasant, seems to go on forever and is a bit of a mis-step on an otherwise brilliant work. Creatively, it will be hard for Adele to top this album. Commercially, it will be almost impossible for anyone to match its success in the current landscape of the music "business." But it's good to know that something so good has ended up being so warmly received by critics and consumers alike, and especially without the endless number of formats and re-packagings, pricing stunts and gimmicky tie-ins that are used these days to rig the charts and sales figures.