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Sunday, June 26, 2022

“It is not for you”: Review of Adele’s 30

Adele’s journey to 30 has been more exciting than most. At 19 years old she was an international bestseller, and by 21 she was one of the leading lights of the global music industry. The power and quality of her voice catapulted her to the forefront of a celebrity culture that Adele has seemed desperate to avoid, for obvious reasons. A genuine cultural icon, she has so many recognisable hits that it would be pointless to list them. The girl who once went to the BRIT school and sung for her friends in a park in West Norwood is now on the cover of Vogue and British Vogue simultaneously, the first person ever to do so. Throughout her career, Adele has combined sheer vocal power with a vulnerability that makes it so easy to love her despite not knowing that much about her. It is this intoxicating mix that makes her the unrivalled queen of the breakup song (Adele could sing Red, I imagine Taylor wouldn’t fare so well with Hello).

Adele’s latest album does away with some of the mystery, favouring stark honesty. 30, in Adele’s own words, is an explanation of her divorce to her son, Angelo, who actually features on one of the tracks. The Adele that sings My Little Love is at a stage of vulnerability, and emotional maturity, that is the culmination of an emotional development that began at 19. The hummed backing calls back to the days of River Lea, but the biting conversation with her child and heart-breaking message about loneliness that she speaks over it is proof, on track three, that this album is less about pride and more about being pulled in a hundred different directions.

This album is not 21 or 25, which were wall-to-wall with chart-topping power ballads. This album is more mellow, reflective, and deeply personal. The change certainly isn’t anything to do with her vocals: ITV’s An Audience with Adele proved that she is still one of the strongest singers in modern pop music. Adele has been crystal clear that this isn’t the Chasing Pavements style that Generation Tiktok has fallen in love with; this is music for her generation, for 30-something year olds sitting in a stark, white kitchen in Surrey with a glass of red wine in hand and divorce papers delicately positioned on the counter. Why I feel such a strong connection to that kind of music is a mystery to me, and a pressing question for my boyfriend. Maybe I should get a divorce…

The strange thing about Adele is that we never really know what to expect. Her singing is so heartfelt and powerful that it seems strange to see her giggling away with Dawn French as she hosted her ITV audience. All of her live performances have the strange moment where the star sings a bone-shaking last note of a song about her heart being broken, takes a breath, and starts jabbering away like she’s your best mate. I imagine those moments will be far more pronounced when she tours with this album, which has everything from a love-song to wine (in what could be the biggest leap forward for music since the invention of the instrument) to heartfelt tunes about coming to terms with her divorce.

I have heard some people my age complain that the album hasn’t got the strongest melodies, or isn’t quite as exciting as her previous album. To those I say: it is not for you. If people our age can enjoy the songs, that’s perfect. But sometimes music isn’t for us, even if it’s by our idols. We’ve got 19, 21, and 25 to hear Adele sing about growing up, breaking your heart, and the power of belonging. 30 is another project personal to a stage in her life, and regardless of whether it’s for everyone, it is a simply brilliant listen.

Image Credit: Kristopher Harris/CC BY 2.0

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