21 – Adele, 2011
I’ve been attempting to finish a post on the magnificent Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation, 1814 for the past couple weeks, but can’t seem to. I’m sure a large part of the delay is the fact that I’m awaiting a vinyl copy to come in the mail, and want to have listened to it once before finally publishing anything. That’s what you have to look forward to. In the mean time, I’ve been going through a bit of a music funk. I’m tired of almost everything I’ve heard before, but can’t seem to find the energy to listen to anything new.
The one exception has been Adele’s second album, 21. Yes, it’s titled from the age at which she wrote the material, and yes, that throws me off every time considering the emotional depth and maturity that echoes through most of the tracks. I have to admit, this album is growing on me with every listen. As a follow up to 19 I immediately found it disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, I fell in love with “Rolling in the Deep” like everyone else, and was playing and re-posting her performance at the Brit Awards of “Someone Like You” along with the half of facebook. But after my first listen, I felt that the rest of the album couldn’t live up to these two power songs.
I still think they are the strongest on the album along with “Rumour Has It”. Yet at some point I gave the rest of 21 another chance, and this time I imagined that it was a backwards sandwich – the goods at either end with mostly boring essentials in the middle. Eventually it morphed into a Lasagna, where the cheese is still on top, and most of the good juices drip to the bottom, but really, it’s all good. Something tells me I’m hungry…
As I mentioned, 21 begins with a bang. The album is an exploration of a particular breakup, but instead of opening with melancholy, Adele comes out swinging. There is indeed a fire in her heart, and it’s contagious. I guess the first two songs represent the anger stage of the grief cycle. That’s my favorite.
“Turning Tables” jumps back in time to the moment she realizes a breakup is necessary, and although it’s a good song, it has an annoying tendency to get Rihanna’s “Unfaithful” in my head. I’m no Rihanna-hater, but this is really one of her worst. Still, I shouldn’t take out my feelings on Adele; it’s not her fault that Rihanna wrote a catchy tune that talks about being a murderer.
The one song I haven’t changed my mind on is the next: “Don’t You Remember”. Adele, you are so much better than a shmultzy country song. I know every breakup album needs a depression-infused-regret song, but this can not be it. I honestly think I would have enjoyed this album much earlier if this wasn’t included.
And now that we’re past it, I can relax. It gets better from here; it’s a steady increase of good tuneage. “Set Fire to the Rain” is quickly becoming the spicy meat in my Adele sandwich… or lasagna. It’s the ideal Adele instrumentation that starts with piano at the foundation and builds through the verses to create a climax at the chorus with strings and an epic feeling chord progression.
I love the punctuated piano shots of “He Won’t Go”, and I do tend to sing along, so perhaps it’ll still grow on me, but right now I’m mostly excited for the ballads to start. “Take It All” feeds that craving. Pure, soulful Adele-voice, with the tiniest dab of gospel choir. I kind of wish she saved this one until later, because it’s hard to go back to the poppy “I’ll Be Waiting”.
Something about “One and Only” sounds like it should be in Dream Girls (Am I alone in this?). Maybe that’s why I feel like it doesn’t hit as hard as it might be trying to. I do LOVE the bridge, where she gives him a little understanding: “I know it ain’t easy, giving up your heart.” Almost wish it was a song in itself. Then Adele does something I never would have expected. She covers the Cure’s “Lovesong”. I really like this a lot by itself, but I’m still not sure how it goes with everything else. Are we meant to hear that she’s ready to love again, is it denial, or does she actually feel like she’ll love the D-bag forever? I’m a little confused.
I forgive and forget everything that came before as soon as the arpeggios of “Someone Like You” begin. This son makes me melt all over, no matter where I am; I become that dork on the bus with the iPod who closes her eyes super dramatically, and worries everyone around that she might burst into tears, and no one will know what to do. But hey, you try to listen to this tragic tune without controlling your emotional reactions.
Here’s that post I love to share. I have to go cry now, and no, I don’t have time to talk about whatever the bonus track is that came with my iTunes download.