March 9, 2011

Test Spin: Adele

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It’s been three years since UK songstress Adele turned heads with the release of her debut album, 19, and a little more than two years since she was awarded the Grammy for Best New Artist by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Ergo, expectations were high for her follow-up, 21. Thankfully, she didn’t disappoint, delivering a near perfect album.

Instead of simply returning to the producers who helped craft 19, Adele chose to branch out a bit with 21. The singer spent time on both sides of the pond, working with acclaimed British musician Paul Epworth, Columbia Records co-President Rick Rubin and OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder. She did re-team with Jim Abbiss, though, who produced her Grammy-nominated single, “Hometown Glory.”

21 opens with lead single “Rolling in the Deep,” a bluesy gospel number that builds from a plucky acoustic guitar opening to a foot-stomping close. “Rolling in the Deep” is declarative of the slightly older Adele who composed this album, a woman who is no longer willing to be ignored. That theme also surfaces in the Motown-inspired “Rumor Has It” and the Fraser T. Smith (Taio Cruz’s “Break Your Heart”) co-penned “Set Fire to the Rain.”

Still, Adele is no stranger to heartbreak. And as with 19, there are a number of piano laden ballads on 21 that perfectly capture the devastation that often succeeds love. “Turning Tables” and “Don’t You Remember” are particularly memorable because they allow Adele to open up and show off her vast range.

But, none of the album’s other ballads can compare to 21’s closing song, “Someone Like You.” Arguably, the most subdued cut from 21, “Someone Like You” acts as a theoretical sequel to “Rolling in the Deep,” with Adele imagining a future where the lover who scorned her takes a wife and lives happily ever after, while she struggles to fill the void he’s created in her heart.

—Wesley Ambrecht

Original Author: Wesley Ambrecht