Album Review 25 – Adele (Target Deluxe Version) XL Recordings/Columbia

Adele‘Give me a memory I can use…’ -All I Ask.

Like many of the estimated 2.5 million of us who bought Adele’s third studio album 25 this weekend, the most noticeable thing for me was not just her renowned vocal instrument but its ultra-clear sound. Obviously, very special care went into this recording and you can hear it in virtually every molecule of her signature earthy, robust, preternaturally strong vocals. It is, already, by far, the best sounding album I’ve heard in years. The lean production and engineering that went into this project was phenomenal! You can almost HEAR her inhale as she breathes life into the songs, their stories and of course, the listener.

A recent interview put it best when it described our enduring love of Adele and her voice; it stated that she’s more an artist than entertainer. That’s a very importation distinction given that many of us complain that there’s far too many of the latter these days.

With some assists from the likes of One Republic’s Ryan Tedder (Turning Tables & Rumor Has It) and producer impresario Max Martin (Katy Perry & Taylor Swift), Adele co-wrote all 14 tracks of the album and the subject matter is as diverse as her styles. There’s the operatic grandeur and ubiquitous “Hello,” the ode to her son and loved ones, the lean, fiercely protective “Remedy,” the calypso-infused, funky, flirty “Send My Love” is a hoot, the resplendent second single “When We Were Young,” the plucky love-me-or-leave-me adamancy of “Water Under The Bridge,” the soaring, folk-rock of “Sweetest Devotion” and the soulful 60’s throwback of “Lay Me Down” are all noteworthy. But the ballad she says she’s never sung harder on, “All I Ask” (co-penned with Bruno Mars) is an exquisite stunner. It’s poignant, raw and powerful and the key change will put water in your eyes without you even realizing it.

As for the predictable and tired claims of detractors that she’s covering the same ground, I say thee nay. It’s not as if she’s doing just a batch of torch songs, that’s ridiculous. The same could be said if she recorded solely love songs. It’s a cynical, lazy and overly-broad brush to paint her work with. In her own words, “My last record was a break-up record and if I had to label this one, I would call it a make-up record. I’m making up with myself. Making up for lost time. Making up for everything I ever did and never did. It’s about what was, what is, what might have been.”

Besides, when you look at any subject matter through multiple facets of a prism, you can easily see there’s many, many ways in which to view the innumerable varieties of the human condition. Adele, even at her young age, gets that. For the moment, she’s content with creating her own lane, staying in it and doing her thang and for her increasing and obviously passionate legion of devotees, that’s more than fine with us.

-By Andre Kelley.