It’s been a long time since an album has been as highly anticipated as Adele’s ’25’. Her comeback after a three year hiatus (excluding the release of James Bond theme ‘Skyfall’) has exceeded the expectations of all; lead single ‘Hello’ smashed Vevo records for the most views in one day and launched straight to the top of singles charts all around the world. In the UK, it became the biggest selling Number One in three years. It’s fair to say Adele has become something of a global superstar since the release of previous album ’21’ and with the release of ’25’, it seems that she will remain that way.
’25’ is a conventional Adele album; a collection of emotive ballads which mourn the loss of ex-lovers, a carefree life and old friends. It doesn’t attempt anything too audacious and isn’t particularly innovative but it remains loyal to Adele’s signature sound and for that, it should be commended.
For the large part, Adele sticks rigidly to the formula of ’21’. ‘Hello’ is arguably the most dramatic track on the album and was wisely chosen as the lead single. As the album’s opening track, it’s well-placed and reintroduces Adkins back into the homes of the public. Similarly, ‘Remedy’ co-written by familiar collaborator Ryan Tedder, is a pretty and melodic ballad featuring nothing more than an exquisite piano riff and Adele’s soulful vocals. It’s a reinforcement that sometimes leaving a song in its most raw, organic form delivers the best results. ‘Love in the Dark’, one of the album’s stand-out moments, is also left well alone and is comprised of nothing but piano chords, sweeping strings and Adele’s vocals aching with sincerity. The powerful chorus is lush with orchestration and it’s a concrete reminder of what Adele does best. ‘All I Ask’ follows the same formula utilising pretty piano riffs as Adele begs her lover to leave her with a lasting memory before they officially end their relationship. Co-written by Bruno Mars and his frequent collaborators, Mars’ influence is clear – it doesn’t require much imagination to picture his vocals on it but Adele inevitably glistens on the track.
‘When We Were Young’ is another of the album’s highlights, a track so profound, it completely blows ‘Hello’ out of the water. The chord progression of the chorus rather bizarrely mirrors Razorlight’s ‘America’ in places but it’s a substantial, soulful ballad glowing with sincerity. Sombre but captivating ballad ‘Million Years Ago’ is another of the album’s highlights, utilising nothing but Spanish-sounding acoustic guitars and Adele pining for a return to simpler times. ‘I Miss You’ is darker in tone and is an eerie soul ballad featuring a jazz organ, echoing broken acapella vocals, Phil Collins styled drumming and moody piano chords.
At times, the album does attempt to break out of the mould Adele has created for herself. The sassy ‘Send My Love (To Your New Lover)’ refreshingly introduces funky acoustic guitar riffs into the fold and is relatively jovial compared to the rest of the album. Likewise, ‘Water Under the Bridge’ is a breezy pop track on which Greg Kurstin stamps his signature synthpop sound. It’s different to anything Adkins has ever released before, comprised of funky guitar riffs, reverberating vocals and crashing percussion but it remains loyal to her sound through its utilisation of rich gospel harmonies and unequivocal piano chords. It’s one of the best tracks of Adele’s career and is crying out for a single release. Gospel music is also the primary influence on ‘River Lea’, a soulful track featuring hand-clap percussion, rich layered vocals and jazzy organ chords. Closing track ‘Sweetest Devotion’ also attempts to lift spirits high and finishes the album on a more positive note. Weeping guitars, a piano riff and gentle guitar strums open the track before it evolves into an uplifting soul track. It’s clear the track has been written with loved ones in mind, most probably her son Angelo and it’s a fitting finale.
A safe but pleasing album which remains loyal to her much-loved sound.
- Rating: 4/5.
- Highlights: Hello, When We Were Young, Water Under The Bridge, Love in the Dark, A Million Years Ago, All I Ask.
’25’ is available now on XL Records.