British songstress Adele has gone from chasing pavements to rolling in the deep, not to mention the dough. With a new album already at the top of the charts in multiple countries, Adele is showing how multifaceted she is with her new album “21” by featuring songs reminiscent of many genres. The siren of soul delves into sharing past love affairs through passionate piano riffs, brutally honest lyrics and a voice that could give an ice cube chills.
A single chord is strummed repeatedly as Adele’s billowy voice joins in to bring life to the story of getting revenge on an ex. “Rolling in the Deep” best known from commercials for the film “I Am Number Four” , and Adele’s most popular song, sets the tone for what is to come: a little bit of everything. The introductory chords hint at the country-western style of “Don’t You Remember,” while the ghostly background vocals will be present in nearly every song from here on out.
Adele channels many queens of the music industry throughout her album. While she may not have the hard-rock edge of “Grace Potter and the Nocturnals”, her jazzy voice shows a wider range that Potter can’t quite achieve. Yet when “Rumor Has It” starts, it seems that maybe Potter’s glam-rock vocals should be accompanying Adele. The calm before the storm of each chorus is similar to the Nocturnals “Paris (Ooh La La)”, while the slow electric guitar strums add a jazzy feeling.
Yet Adele stays true to her classically trained self as she throws in the first piano ballad of the album. “Turning Tables” showcases Adele’s incredible range while also exhibiting her songwriting skills. The empowering and inspirational lyrics like “I won’t let you close enough to hurt me…” show off her strengths and weaknesses as she declares her toxic relationship over while the violins wail and mix with the staccato bridge.
But it’s Adele’s risks that make the album really stand out. “Don’t You Remember” begins with the twang of guitar riffs instantly evoking the sound of classic country. As she bellows “When will I see you again?” the slow-dance country song sounds dismal yet takes a turn for the hopeful as the chorus picks up when drums, piano and bass are added to the mix. As the chorus peaks, the band crescendos before gently transitioning back into the country feel. The bridge is comparable to that of Jennifer Hudson’s performance in “And I Am Telling You,” from the film “Dreamgirls,” as Adele delivers the detailed chronicle of her ex falling out of love with her.
Taking a shot at R&B with “He Won’t Go”, Adele gives Alicia Keys a run for her money. Opening with trills of the piano and Adele’s fiery voice “He Won’t Go” takes “21” and Adele to yet another level of versatility. Along with her penchant for writing, Adele’s most important asset, her voice, shines in a way Alicia Keys cannot.
In an odd change of pace, Adele covers The Cure’s “Lovesong” between some of her original pieces thus disrupting the flow of the album. While Adele’s rendition sounds beautiful and is an interesting take on the number, it lacks the raw emotional power of songs written by Adele herself. By slowing the number down to a coffee-house jazz pace, we hear every bit of lackluster emotion Adele tries to muster for the song but it seems that without the personal touch of her pen to paper she loses her unique and powerful control over the music.
Throughout her sophomore album, named for the age at which she wrote the songs, Adele uses imagery as well as music to recreate the stories of past loves and give an in-depth emotional look at what she’s gone through. Like her past loves, “21” is a checkerboard of sounds and genres. “Take it All” sounds like a Gospel of declared love while “I Found a Boy” is a slow-rock gem of triumph with guitar solos akin to those in “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen.
Ending her album on a happier note, Adele seems to promise that there is more to come. Though it didn’t seem possible, Adele’s “21” shows even more potential than her first album “19”. At such a young age Adele has already proved her ability to cross genres as well as borders beyond the ability of many competing artists.
3.5 out of 4 stars.