The Adele fan is sometimes – though not always – separate from any other music fan. We know this because while we’re always told of the declining market and dragging sales Adele sold mega millions of her last album and after a hefty four year wait (an eternity in this day and age) she has already set records for first day and first week sales with 25, the follow up to 21 (which was the follow up to 19). It was also decided to not stream the new Adele album. Adele fans are music buyers. That alone could separate them from music fans.
The Adele Story is a clever lie. The lie of authenticity – right down to the diary titles of her albums; snapshots of her at a particular age. That’s supposed to tell us we’re hearing the truth of someone at a particular age, just a moment in time. If that’s the case Adele at 25 (she’s 27 now, but the album was started when she was 25) is miserable and boring and oddly concerned with being too old. Adele at 25/27 is happily in a relationship and a mother of a three-year-old – and struggling to sell the lie of unhappiness-in-song because that tear-jerker stuff is what works best for Adele. She connected to a lot of people – and was deemed ‘real’ – because she was so good at selling the lie of “real emotion”.
So 25 carries on with a more-of-the-same feel to 21, but lacks the bombast. Oddly, this isn’t a good thing – for all of 21’s faults (and you can consider it churlish for me to pick at a mega-seller, so be it) at least it was a Statement Album. It had some dramatic impact. But 25 is boring and airbrushed – and we’re always being told that Adele isn’t – at all – airbrushed. She’s real. She’s girl-next-door. She’s not airs and graces, she’s just some bird with a voice, eh.
Well, this songbird sounds parched and struggling – and 25 only ever ambles towards its destination. The songs sound forced and desperate to trace back around this concept of “I wish nothing but the best for you” – so much so that the World’s Most Hated Ex is paraded around the ring one more time…and man does it feel completely false…
The album kicks off with the first single, Hello. The obvious place to start – the obvious link back to 21. A dull song that was greeted warmly by Adele fans simply because it was The New Adele Song.
From there we get the collaborations with pop-smart hit-maker Max Martin. And where Send My Love (To Your New Lover) might have popped if given to Taylor Swift it swiftly drags, such hooks haven’t been tailored for Adele’s soapbox torch-balladry. That, after all, is her genre. She didn’t invent it, merely exploited it. Lives it, apparently.
I Miss You starts off promisingly, with the first real production flourish – some dissonance and ethereal waft that would link it to the London grime scene, almost. But then a drum pattern stolen from any Florence & The Machine song takes this tune (nearly) toward the old bombast. Nearly.
When We Were Young is a big, dull lament for youth – a 27-year-old fronting age 25 is selling fake sadness that’s “just like a movie, just like a song”. It’s clichéd nonsense, and does nothing to dispel Adele from the role of musical Bridget Jones; 25 being the latest entry into the ongoing diaries.
This of course is what fans want. You would have to guess.
There’s nothing flat out bad about this album, beyond the fact that Adele is not exciting and this music is clichéd – it’s just boring. It’s just dull. And the feverish excitement it has been greeted with is baffling. People are hearing something that’s simply not there. They’re believing a “truth” that’s been concocted too – there are some emotional swells in the music, there’s a bit of wailing…so she must truly, utterly, really mean the shit out of this, say the people that last bought music when Adele last released her music.
The chanson-like Million Years Ago is a golden-hued nostalgic weepie, but at least it has a nice musical quality to it; something different in Adele’s world. Something – genuinely – thoughtful. The subject matter though, still this concern with aging, with worrying your best years are gone. At 25? Really? Adele’s big statements on 21 had her seeming like some empowered – and empowering – feminist (I never believed that, it was all just trite). But now she’s had the will to live sucked right out of her, victim of her own success apparently. That people can listen to this and accept it, love it, when there’s nothing but whinging going on, is indeed baffling. Just weird.
For the most part 25 is 50 minutes of musical purgatory. But Adele fans will hear Adele’s voice. And they’ll feel like they’re in her world. It’s a very boring world to my ears and I don’t believe this is any reflection of her real life at all. This is the sound they know will sell. She’s not alone in crafting that – but it’s the idea that she’s doing something at all different, or soulful, that bugs me. This is hallway-grey, it’s only ever uplifting in an elevator-soundtrack way and it’s been diminishing returns, artistically, for Adele ever since her first album.
Worse than that I hate the mockery that’s been made of alleged vulnerability. That’s fucking insulting. This is not heart-on-sleeve stuff at all. This is calculated. And worse than that it’s just plodding nonsense.
But, hey, what a strange phenomenon eh. Get ready to read more about how this ‘saves the industry’ and how ‘Adele is good for music’ and any other straw-grasping bullshit.