Adele's new album is a strong but all too familiar follow up to it's predecessor.

Adele’s New Album, 25, reviewed.

With the release of her third album, 25, falling in the same week that it’s predecessor 21 was named by Billboard magazine as The Best album of all time, the pressure to provide a worthy follow up was mounting on Adele. It’s a shame, then, that what worked so well for Adele with 21 is what has held back 25 from being worthy of equal acclaim, and why it’s familiarity means that it hits less hard, and has less of an impact, than her previous masterpiece.

Adele’s follow up album is as predictable and formulaic as her title choices. 21 told us what it’s follow up was likely to be called (give or take a year or two), and also painted us the best picture of what it would sound like, too, even if we didn’t fully realise it at the time. Many of the songs of 25 could slip quite easily in to 21, so little difference is there between the sounds. It doesn’t stray much further the safe zone she has covered extensively in the past, and does not even push as far from that as Rolling in the Deep, Set Fire to the Rain and Rumour has it do on 21. 

I had partly expected her to be, and felt that she gave the hint that she would be, taking a slightly edgier, more unexpected approach to this album, in the same way Taylor Swift did with 1989. That’s not to say I expected Adele up there to be singing songs like Shake It Off, but when Taylor Swift created a widely acclaimed, extremely successful album detailing falling in love and right back out of it on such an equally personal level as she did with 2012’s Red, she opted to follow it up with something a little different, something more unexpected, and something to show she hadn’t grew complacent in her success. Adele has not, she has followed the path of every other ballad singer in the past few years and tried to recreate 21. 

That doesn’t mean that 25 is a bad quality album, it isn’t; it’s just as good as 21; songs like Hello (Attached at the bottom of the page) come along once in a lifetime for most artists, but over her career Adele has managed to muster up 3 or 4. It’s easy to understand why she chose that track to precede the albums release and relaunch her career to stratospheric heights; no other song on the album comes close to Hello in terms of quality. In fact it’s hard to highlight any song that would be a worthy follow up single, even when you lower your expectations. It might well be one of the best songs of her career, but unfortunately, 25 has some of the worst as well.

Slight curveballs in the track list, in the form of songs like “Send my love (to your new lover)” show that, if she had took them a little further, she could have found new ground to stand on this album, but for every song that sounds a bit different theres a song like“When We Were Young”, that sounds so much like all of Adele’s other songs that we’d call it a cheap imitation had it come from anyone but the lady herself. “Send my love…” was produced by Max Martin and Johan Shellback, the pop masterminds behind Taylor Swifts transition to fully fledged pop star, and the people who helped her find a new pathway with her new album rather than directly imitating her last, and most successful. Their presence on the Adele song, and an Adele song of such a high quality that manages to sound both like and unlike anything she’s ever done before, shows they could have done the same for Adele, but where Taylor Swift jumped headfirst in to her new direction and reinvented her whole sound, Adele took a more timid approach, and her trepidation has held her back. She knows who she is as an artist and a person, and she stuck strongly by it. As a result, the album has few other stand out songs, and sounds just like you’d expect it would. Once again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a little disappointing that 25 is more 21-again, than an album with its own distinguishable qualities.

Sessions with Ryan Tedder and Sia Furler were (mostly) left from the albums final track list because, whatever their quality, they sounded too much like other people, and not like Adele. The shame of it is that all the songs being too much like Adele is one of the albums only problems. Some of the songs made it on to Sia’s own album, and hearing them and knowing they could have been sung by Adele have me itching to hear her version. I’d guess they’d be better in Adele’s hands than Sia’s, and it has left me mourning for what 25 could have been. Had Adele kept ahold of songs like Alive, it would have added that little bit more that was missing from Adele’s new album, that little bit of edge and taste of something different she opted to leave out.

Adele was never going to make an album that was a product of a certain time, or that was a testament of a passing trend, like 1989 was for Taylor Swift, and as a result I predict that 25 will be another timeless addition to Adele’s back catalogue. The tracks will always remain in relevancy, and will have just the same impact in ten years as they have today. She remains one of the best female lyricists of a generation, poetic and highly intelligent, words strung together so beautifully that they demand admiration, but without sinking in to deep metaphors that are hard to follow. She covers no uncommon ground in her writing, but recites to us so beautifully the experiences we’ve all felt before. She finds the words for feelings we can’t explain, and as a result has created a soundtrack to life that rings true and hits hard. Tabloids stirred up a storm that in the follow up to throat surgery Adele might never sing as well again, but it left her unhindered; she sings so soulfully with such ease, fully utilises the wide ranges her voice can hit and, even if the lyrics fail to move you emotionally, her voice will push you ever the edge. Emotion resounds and echoes throughout every word she sings, and she conveys an eclectic mix of heartbreak, elation, sorrow and sincerity as if it comes to her by instinct. In fact, it just might, and between her vocals and her lyrics, it’s obvious how personal her style, and this album, is to Adele.

Her voice is Big, bold and thunderous, typically trademark Adele; very impressive at the worst of times, remarkable and goose-bump inducing at the best of them. Some songs are hauntingly beautiful, others beautiful for the extent only of their running time, and easy to forget after that. You’ll enjoy it and appreciate it when you listen to them, but not all of them demand, or warrant, repeat performances. When you try to make an album of songs like Hello or Someone like you, they’ve got to hit just as hard, but not all of them do. Still, if you do listen to them songs again, you’ll likely always enjoy them, and though you might forget them, you won’t grow tired of them easily; like a movie that you love, but can’t remember why until you watch it again.

Adele sings ballads with such expertise and of such a high quality that even her attempts to recreate 21 have left her with a perfectly commendable follow up in 25, but with the slight deviations from tradition, the detours she teases in songs like “River Lea” and “Send my Love (To Your New Lover), it becomes a shame, not a mistake or a bad idea or a lapse of quality in her career, but a shame that she did not follow them further, and was so happy to fall back on her speciality of dreary-ballads. But hey, it’s worked out well for her up until now, hasn’t it? And I suspect it’ll be no different with 25. 

Often mesmerising and frequently familiar, 25 offers itself as a worthy follow up for 21, but nothing more than that. Beautiful and anthemic, and proof that Adele’s not going anywhere just yet.

 Overall: 3/5

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Written by CelebMix