Unless you’ve been living in an age of flip-phones, it’s near impossible to escape the return of Adele. Few reunions can amass the hype surrounding 25; her third album following the successful 19 and phenomenal 21. Your little brother shares the ‘Hello’ GIFs, your Grandma name-checks her but actually knows a thing or two about her music, and even if you wouldn’t call yourself a fan, you know all the words to ‘Someone Like You’ and know a night on the lash with Adele would be one you wish you could remember.
Rarely one for rules, 25 arrives during Adele’s 27th year, but like her previous albums it documents a moment in her life. If 19 shows her coping with adulthood and 21 with her most heart wrenching break up to date, 25 acknowledges motherhood and the consolidation that the instant altercation in life brings. Just as her smoky tones are a world away from her contagious cackle, Adele’s private life is just that; set far away from the bright city lights of celebrity and fame, meaning that – necessary promotional interviews aside – these compositions are the only real way to know who Adele is.
Opener ‘Hello’ (a genius PR move when its opening lines announced her return during a TV ad) is no surprise new sound, but it does showcase an instant improvement in the vocal acrobatics she can accomplish, no doubt due to her quitting the cigs and caring for her voice after nearly losing it. Phil Collins’ input in the album may have been scrapped, but his trademark drum beat can be heard here, as well as on ‘I Miss You’. With its haunting intro eluding to a huge sound, Adele might not like to admit it but on 25 she’s making music that could fill Glastonbury’s Pyramid stage. Equally, you can imagine ‘Water Under The Bridge’ accompanied by slo-mo shots of a festival crowd, as flares fire up in the background.
Phil may have been snubbed, and although the Damon Albarn sessions seem to have ended on a sour note, not every collaboration got away. Pop heavyweight Max Martin (Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys) gives ‘Send My Love (To Your New Lover)’ the sort of shine that OneRepublic man Ryan Tedder did with 21 tracks (‘Rumour Has It’…). While Albarn has become a genre chameleon, Adele continues to blossom as a bluesy, pop diva, and perhaps therein lies the reason why we’re unlikely to see her as a member of his next (25th) super-group side project.
As successful as 19 and 21 were, neither was without its filler and 25 is no exception; ‘All I Ask’ (co-writer Bruno Mars should have been on the “no” pile too) is a little too Whitney, the key-change emphasising the fact, whereas ‘When We Were Young’ and ‘Million Miles Away’ highlight why people love Adele: her craft is simple, timeless and honest, and with the latter sounding like a rework from her debut, she’s at her best when she’s the only star writing. The Danger Mouse produced ‘River Lea’ and closer ‘Sweetest Devotion’ experiment, both sounding fuller than her trademark sound, but at the centre is a love story from the heart of a cockney girl, of an every woman, of a mum.
There’s no doubt that 25 is going to break more records than can be made, but you can bet that Adele will get the news while sat on the sofa in her sweats, turning down more million pound deals than can be offered, with no plans for the next number in the collection until she decides it’s time to say hello again.
25 is released on 20th November via XL Recordings.