in Review

Adele – 30

In a simpler time, back in December 2019, I chose to look back on the 2010s by going in-depth on Adele’s 21, the best-selling album of the previous decade. It was not my introduction to Adele, since obviously she’s been one of the more iconic singers of the 21st century. However, it was my introduction to listening to an entire album’s worth of her songs, and it became pretty clear to me why her albums (and 21 in particular) have been such gigantic sellers in an era when “big event albums” only come around once in a blue moon. Not only does Adele’s music appeal to a pretty diverse age bracket of listeners, but her songs are good! Sure, they may be a little on the melodramatic side, but really no one does drama better and 30 is another testament to that, as much like 21 it sees Adele channeling her real-life heartbreak into another triumph.

I haven’t really read any interviews with Adele about how her recent divorce influenced the music on 30, but all you really have to do to get a sense of it is listen to the music. This is an album that embraces the sorrow and guilt of reflecting on love that didn’t quite work out and all of the various baggage that comes with it. Also, because Adele is older and wiser now, it’s just as much an album about picking yourself up, brushing yourself off, and finding a way to move on with your life. This culminates in what might be the album’s defining moment, “Hold On”, which starts as a reflective whisper in the dark, but slowly builds in assuredness, guided by Adele’s always unflappable voice.

Another sign that this is a more mature Adele album is that it’s perfectly comfortable with not really having any bangers. Or, at least not on the scale of a “Hello” or “Rolling In The Deep”. Lead single “Easy On Me” has some of that 21 magic to it, but sounds like about the third or fourth single on another Adele album. Meanwhile, the more arresting moments on 30 come from something more raw like “To Be Love” where Adele uses the phrase “Let it be known that I tried” to assess her failed marriage to devastating effect, with nothing but the accompaniment of a lone piano. The album also has its share of more upbeat sounds, dabbling in modern soul the way Adele’s less-depressing songs tend to. But at the end of the day, the album is a testament to both how intimate and grandiose Adele can go while grappling with whatever her love life hands her.

Favorite Tracks: “Can I Get It”, “Hold On”, “To Be Loved”