Adele: 30 Album Review | Pitchfork

At the beginning of the press cycle for her fourth LP, Adele referred to 30 as her most personal album yet, a high bar for someone whose heartbreaking second album taught the whole world to cry and forced Julia Roberts to publicly threaten Adele’s next boyfriend. Arguably, Big Feelings, backed by the full weight of her expressive mezzo-soprano, made the London singer-songwriter one of the most admired pop stars on the planet. These include (but are not limited to): giving your heart away and making it beat to the beat, resigning yourself to someone who reminds you of an ex, fearing that love will escape you forever or that you are somehow trapped in the past, crystallized in amber. It’s hard to imagine anything more personal than the empathy bombs Adele often throws, but she didn’t lie about 30.

Here, she’s telling a more unexpected story about love: what it means to inflict that pain on her family, rebuild herself from scratch, and, * big breath *, try to love again. The task required a more nuanced writing style and looser structures for some of the songs, resulting in Adele’s most ambitious album to date. The way the 33-year-old interacts with historical traditions feels more in sync with contemporary pop, R&B, and hip-hop, as if she’s following the cues of newer visionaries like Jazmine Sullivan and Frank Ocean alike. like her older divas. He worked with producer Inflo, the London collective SAULT and the acclaimed Little Simz, on three songs that bring a real warmth and feeling to the last third of the album. And their vocals are more fun: Motown-style backing vocals are modulated to a screech on “Cry Your Heart Out” and “Love Is a Game,” in a kind of remix of their usual retro homage.

Adele, like other hermetic superstars, dislikes celebrity, but makes no effort to hide the fact that her life inspired her art. Without much context or bow, the polished songs of 2015 25 did not land in the same way as the overwhelming blows of twenty-one. (Although Adele, like Jennifer Coolidge, did wonderful things to redefine greetings.) 30, Adele makes her story readable – it’s about “divorce, baby, divorce,” going through the Saturn return, all the things from the Nancy Meyers movies but that happened 20 years before, and it shows that it’s complicated and undeniably hers. .

The stage is set by the sparkling chords of Fender Rhodes that open “Strangers by Nature,” a collaboration with composer and film producer Ludwig Göransson. Inspired by the songs of Judy Garland and the 1992 Meryl Streep / Goldie Hawn black comedy Death becomes her, Adele mourns her past relationships in such a dramatic and sad way that it is practically camp, with Disney strings and an opening line worthy of a Smiths song (“I will bring flowers to the graveyard of my heart”). Then comes “Easy on Me”, the piano-based ballad eeeWe emphasize once again that our most expressive singers can do magic with a single syllable. The song represents the first of many times in 30 that Adele will ask for grace, from herself, from the Lord and from her little son Angelo.

Adele has said that she brought about the end of her marriage to Simon Konecki because she was not happy, and her guilt and hope of being understood by Angelo produces some of the richest material on the record. Inspired by voice notes from Tyler, the Creator and Skepta albums, “My Little Love” includes private recordings of tender bedtime conversations between Adele and Angelo as they adjusted to the divorce. It’s an awkward decision to make a quiet storm record telling your son’s story, but it shows a bright new tone of melancholy for an artist with an already robust palette. (“Do you feel the way my past hurts?” He yells, breaking your heart.) One of the five songs on 30 stretching past the six-minute mark, “My Little Love” is an amazing journey; at the end is Adele’s version of rock bottom, a raw voice note in which she admits that, for the first time in years, she feels really and truly lonely. It’s hard to hear her like this: someone who is able to easily access a well of superhuman emotions by clearly admitting that she is broken, in sweatpants, and terrified.

After a good start in taking stock and making amends, Adele dives into a more sensual side with two shorter pop tracks on dating again. The first, a Greg Kurstin collaboration called “Oh My God”, fits somewhere between Ed Sheeran and Florence Welch, but the whistling tone that accentuates the chorus, plus the “Lord Let Me’s” towards the end, shows how Adele’s voice Tics can do a lot to characterize a song. Unfortunately, little can help “Can I Get It,” a misplaced appearance by pop pros Max Martin and Shellback that recaptures the cheesy pop trends of the decade’s (whistle signal). Adele has spoken about how the song’s title chorus refers to a relationship, not just connection, but it will also be misunderstood. Which is right! Many of the great pop songs are. On an album so close to feeling like a holistic statement, this just looks like the single inserted with pop (and maybe even country) radio in mind.

This middle part of 30 “I Drink Wine,” an Elton John-style bar with a strong gospel undertone and an introspective voice note at the end, gets back on track. Adele offers the Chardonnay reality of taking me to church from the jump, opening the song with a verse about her childhood as a means of perspective on how she ran away from herself. He knows the life-long work of ego death, even on a divorce record: “I hope to learn to get over myself,” he says in the chorus, with a hint of determination in his low notes. Although the lyrics abound in clichés: “you can’t fight fire with fire”, “the road less traveled”, “they say play hard, work hard”, it is, in general, generous and down to earth. If this is what gives the soundtrack to the 2032 remake of 27 dresses, I will not be angry.

As you move into the last third of the record, beyond Ella’s jazz interlude with Ariana’s “All Night Parking,” Adele’s humility extends to her goodbyes. This only makes them land tougher and more delicious, as if roasted with a few expertly articulated words (“I know it’s hard but it isn’t,” says one). She dresses a lover for not appearing enough in the slowly unfolding neo-soul of “Woman Like Me,” the best of her tracks with Inflo, and ends up revealing more about her own priorities: “Complacency is the worst trait. to have. Are you crazy? ” the chorus begins. His voice is low and confident, with a hint of disappointment. The expectations and limits Adele sets for others over the course of 30 feel hard earned.

As much as it may seem that the sentence “Hold On” is intended to 30The emotional climax, that honor belongs to “To Be Loved”, with a vocal performance that will be passed on in the tradition of Adele, right next to 25is “All I ask”. She has said that she will not perform it live and only sang it from front to back a few times, including a video recording where the power of her voice distorts the audio. The subject is too devastating to revisit: the rare piano ballad, a co-writing with Tobias Jesso Jr., is sung to a grown Angelo as an explanation for why their marriage didn’t work out. Think of it as something of a companion track to “My Little Love,” a moment of detachment and narrative advancement. Adele is initially dignified, then desperate to convey the high stakes of love, and the performance is a marvel of control and phrasing that draws comparisons to greats like Whitney and Aretha. Here’s what Adele does best: she creates a world of feelings with little more than her voice, and then she pushes you to the limit. She’s wise enough to deliver a pillow-soft response with the closing theme “Love Is a Game,” but the damage is done.

In “To Be Loved”, Adele offers the listener a thesis statement for her music: “To be loved and to love to the fullest / It means to lose all the things I cannot live without.” He has often made us feel the carnage of that risk or captured the longing side of romance to maximum effect, but 30 shows what happens when you voluntarily walk off the cliff and live to tell about it. This requires patience, honesty, therapy, constantly taking two steps forward and one step back. Knowing what you want is largely obtained by discovering what you don’t want. Life is messy and it’s not always built for three-minute pop songs with perfect hooks. Adele was always more complicated than that, and now she has an album that raises the stakes and nuances of her art. Not just by telling a story over 12 songs, or by making a record that interacts with more modern musical ideas, or by using your voice with newly discovered crowds, but by being bold enough to share it all in such a vulnerable way, With the whole world listening


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