Final Rating: 7.2/10
Hello. It’s me.
We heard these words appear out of nowhere, and it was Adele’s resurfacing. This hello from the other side ended up being one of the biggest music moments of 2015, and this superstar single couldn’t have started the hype train for her next mile stone any bigger. With some of her best vocal work and the kind of intensity that represents the maturity we all wished for from Adele, Hello is easily one of the best singles of the year and a damn good wake up call. I don’t think there were many people that weren’t excited to see where Adele went from here. Her grammy studded breakthrough 21 was a huge turning point in her life and in radio music.
25, however, is a quarter of a century. The entrance into adulthood and the escape of facing any legal ages ever again, so becoming 21 makes you face many questions. Where do we go from here? What is life? Who am I? After facing a breakup, Adele was faced with much confusion, and it ended up becoming her opus. With 25, Adele is celebrating life and the distance she has come, but it just isn’t quite what 21 was. Adele has more experience here, though. The vocals are somehow even stronger than before (and that’s saying a lot). There is a stronger sense of arrangement here (and this too is a big deal because 21 was already powerful there, too). Adele hasn’t done anything necessarily wrong here. If anything, she’s used all that she has to recreate the success 21 had.
And it will. 25 will sell out the door. The promoting, again, has been astounding, and 25 is certainly far from a bad album. 25 just hasn’t gripped me quite the way 21 has, and I don’t think that’s because 21 broke Adele to the big world. 25 is the quarter of a life that makes it to 100. It’s a milestone for ourselves more than it is a societal pinpoint like 21 would be. 25 is a showcase of every reason Adele has to be happy, but it’s missing the point of no return feeling 21 had. On 21, Adele didn’t care where she went. She cast herself into the darkest corridors that stayed on track of the mainstream without merging too far off. With 25, she’s faced these dark corners before but with new wisdom. It’s a well polished album, but it won’t be as striking as 21 was.
What 25 is, though, is a bittersweet celebration. It congratulates as much as it worries. You do feel like Adele is more in charge of her own emotions here. On the second single, the Tobias Jesso Jr. co-write When We Were Young, you can sense a longing of her past but an admiration of how her life has been as well. With Water Under the Bridge, there’s a sense of forgiving that Adele addresses despite her clear anger with being taken advantage of. She’s willing to move on, but she will make her troubles known as well. On All I Ask, the best song here after Hello, we get a ballad that’s in a similar sounding vein to Someone Like You. We hear an acceptance that Adele may never be with the love of her life after tonight, and it’s one of the most purely honest moments on the album. She has said that Hello was inspired by the writings of Tom Waits (which has unnecessarily been compared to his music with plagiarism attached to it), but her most Waits-like song is this one. She is just a city girl about to never see this city guy ever again. It’s simple, and it’s heartbreaking.
A few songs here feel a little bit overcooked as an effort to turn her music up another notch. The closer Sweetest Devotion is nicely layered, but it feels a bit like the kind of music Adele jumped well past with 21. With River Lea, we get a similar feeling. Most of the song is pounding and anthemic, but the chorus is a little bit too repetitive to give justice to the rest of the song’s power. I won’t go as far as to say that any of these songs are stale, and the first listens through you will have with 25 will be a ride. For me personally, my clear favorites stuck out very far from the rest of the pack after my runs around, though.
While 25 isn’t as raw or as complete as 21 is, it’s still a great effort. There are some superb moments and a great practice with layering here. Adele’s clearly tried to take her music to other levels, and for that she cannot be faulted. With 25, Adele is still around. Maybe she has shocked the world too many times: 21 continued Amy Winehouses’ wish to bring retro soul back to the radio and it cleared the Grammys, Skyfall made a Bond Theme into a universal anthem and Hello broke 2015 wide open. She found love and became a mother. Adele’s life has been shaken up, and she has shaken us up along with her. So 25 may not have blown me away, but it doesn’t mean it’ll hurt to sit down with a made superstar and hear her play some tunes again from a new perspective. She’s still in her mid 20’s. We’ll have many years with Adele, and the hints of some of her future material to come here is promising enough.