Review: 30 by Adele

Adele is back. 30 is her fourth studio album and has been one of the most anticipated releases in recent years. Six years since 25, it reflects on her life during this period, including her split from her husband (it’s about “divorce, babe”, as she remarked during a recent Instagram live), and both sonically and emotionally, it is her most daring album to date.

30 opens with ‘Strangers By Nature’, a track that manages to be both eerie in its dissonant chords and dark lyrics, beginning with “I’ll be taking flowers to the cemetery of my heart”, and evocative of a Disney song in its whimsical melody. There is a haunting layering of vocals and strings, and the track ends with Adele saying “right, I’m ready” – as if she is preparing herself, and us, for what is to come.

This leads into the album’s lead single ‘Easy On Me’, a song that I’m still not tired of in the slightest, despite it being out in the world for over a month now. The beautiful lyrics form a plea from Adele for others to understand her situation and “go easy” on her, and the song has a memorable chorus that is sure to be belted out in many a karaoke night around the country in years to come. ‘Easy On Me’ addresses a new, more complex type of pain to the singer’s previous work, yet the sound is recognisable as ‘classic Adele’ and wasn’t much of a surprise to fans when it dropped in October.

Image Source: Still via Youtube // Adele – Easy On Me (Official Video) // Adele

However, this precedes a body of songs that are much more experimental and sonically diverse than any of Adele’s previous releases. ‘Oh My God’, a track about internal conflict, is surely a future hit single; a certified bop that is made to be danced to, proving that Adele is way more than just a power ballad gal, with R&B and soul influences and a killer bridge. ‘Can I Get It’ is a tightly produced pop song that was made for chart success, so it’s not a surprise that it was produced by pop giant Max Martin.

It could be argued that 30 emotionally evokes the distinctive sound of the late Amy Winehouse. Motown jam ‘Cry Your Heart Out’ and lo-fi inspired ‘All Night Parking (with Erroll Garner) Interlude’ incidentally inhabit her soulful quality. Atmospheric closing track, ‘Love Is a Game’, tentatively feels like a nod to Winehouse’s ‘Love Is A Losing Game’, both in the title and in the track’s sentiment. In an interview with Zane Lowe, Adele clarifies that she didn’t take “direct influence or inspiration from her”, but acknowledges how much Winehouse means to her, crediting Frank as the reason she first picked up a guitar, as well as recognising that the subtle sarcasm within ‘Love Is A Game’ captures the humour in Amy’s lyrics.

The most affecting song on the album is perhaps ‘My Little Love’, a track written about Adele’s divorce and specifically the impact she fears it has had on her young son. The verses are punctuated by audio recordings of her and her son, where they converse with a refreshing honesty (“Mummy’s been having a lot of big feelings recently”, “I love your dad ‘cause he gave you to me”). The track also concludes with a heartbreakingly candid voice note of a tearful Adele from when she was “having a very anxious day”; it almost feels too personal and like you shouldn’t be listening, but the track itself is beautifully constructed and is unlike anything I’ve heard before.

But my favourite song, and arguably the biggest triumph on the album is‘To Be Loved’. It is a frank explanation of just how difficult the last few years have been, and Adele’s vulnerability is expressed perfectly through her vocal performance – it’s no wonder that she says she finds it too upsetting to even listen to, never mind perform live. The simplicity is so compelling: it’s just Adele, a piano and that jaw-dropping voice, yet there is such intensity to the song, particularly the final third, showcasing the impact that can still be made without layers of production. It’s a masterpiece, full stop.

30 is undeniably different from Adele’s previous offerings, but that makes sense – she’s entered a new phase of her life. One that is about new love, self-love, friendship and motherhood. It’s eclectic and might not be to everyone’s taste, but you can’t help but bask in the freedom that resonates from this album.

Erin Zammitt

Single Review: ‘Easy on Me

Image Source: Still via Youtube // Adele – Easy on Me (Official Video) // Adele

‘Easy on Me’, the first single from new album ‘30’, is a classic Adele style piano ballad and reminiscent of previous hits like ‘Someone Like You’ and ‘Turning Tables’ which helped catapult Adele into stardom.  It is a song of regret, self-sacrifice, and acceptance, detailing the realities and aftermath of divorce. Listeners will appreciate the vulnerability of these lyrics considering the changes in Adele’s personal life during her hiatus, such as the simple but heartfelt ‘I had no time to choose/What I chose to do/So go easy on me’. These lyrics will no doubt resonate with others going through the breakdown of a relationship. The music video is especially poignant, starting in black and white and featuring the same house as the iconic ‘Hello’ video. However, the burst of colour by the second chorus suggests new life and new sounds for her coming music. This is something I am hopeful for as ‘Easy on Me’ could be considered a smart but safe option for a lead single but, it also shows potential for this to be the best Adele era yet.  

Bethan Oakley

Featured Image Source: Still via Youtube // Adele – To Be Loved (Official Lyric Video) / Adele

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