Adele’s 21 was released on February 22, 2011, my daughter Sarah’s 11th birthday. It represented our first artistic connection – when she came down the stairs that morning, I said “You’re going to like this.” We’ve listened to and sung those songs hundreds of times since.
It’s been four and a half years since we first heard 21, and Adele has finally released 25. I played it for Sarah this morning. She said, “I’m already obsessed with this album.” I am too. I’ve had When We Were Young on repeat most of the day. I’m not sure how a 25 year-old woman knows exactly how a 40-something man feels about missed connections; I think 60-somethings will wonder the same thing.
Let me photograph you in this light
In case it is the last time
That we might be exactly like we were
Before we realized
We were sad of getting old
It made us restless
It was just like a movie
It was just like a song
Adele’s musical gift is her voice, a once-in-a-generation talent that wraps itself around notes with astonishing power and variety; her phrasing is always masterful, often surprising. As a songwriter, she favors a strong melody and elemental sentiments – her compositions are fresh but seem timeless. Like the best songbook interpreters (think Sinatra, Fitzgerald), Adele makes the listener feel every song. We’re convinced she means it, and we embark on the emotional journey with her; it ends up being about us, too.
The musical production on 25 is by a who’s who of today’s hot producers. The final product doesn’t feel like a grab bag – the album is well paced and the songs match one another sonically. The focus is always on Adele’s voice, piano the main accompaniment most of the time (solo piano on a couple of the best tracks.) Unlike a Taylor Swift album (an artist I like), the production places the singer first, serving the music – it’s unobtrusive.
There is a bare handful of songs that bring tears to my eyes: I Dreamed a Dream, Father and Son, You’ve Got a Friend, maybe a couple more. Adele’s 25 just about doubles that list. After selling more than 30 million copies, winning prizes and setting records, I didn’t think it was possible for Adele to match 21.
Damn. 25 is better.