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Album Review by Tom Beninate
Adele - 21
Summary

Produced by Jim Abbiss, Adele, Paul Epworth, Rick Rubin, Fraser T. Smith, Ryan Tedder, Dan Wilson

This record firmly puts Adele in the first-place seat (of the second British invasion talent) vacated by the passing of Amy Winehouse. Adele’s 21 won seven 2011 Grammy Awards including Song of the Year for “Rolling in the Deep” and Album of the Year.

Current records often start off with a strong song or two and then quickly go downhill. 21 starts strong, ends strong, and has a respectable middle section, though the typical song on this record could have benefited from a stronger hook or melody. The overall flavor of this record is retro pop with some Motown influence. A good portion of the album sounds current although there is nothing cutting edge here.

21 is a very good record for today’s standards and could arguably compete with records released in the last 60 years or so. It is by no means a great record but if you normally buy CDs then this is absolutely worth buying.

Songs

01 “Rolling In The Deep” This Motown-influenced hit is the best song on the album. The infectious beat and rhythm keeps you interested throughout the entire piece. The chorus melody is excellent on this well-arranged song. It is one of those few hits that you have to play twice in a row.

02 “Rumor Has It” This song continues where “Rolling In The Deep” left off but doesn’t quite achieve that higher level. Nonetheless it is a good song.

03 “Turning Tables” At this point things slow down a bit. “Turning Tables” is essentially a singer/piano tune with stock string arrangements in the background. Adele could have added a stronger hook on this one.

04 "Don’t You Remember” This is an okay singer/guitar song with dull arrangements. Normally a writer adds a key change up one half-step in order to add some excitement to an interesting song. Here that vehicle is wasted because this song is simply not interesting enough.

05 “Set Fire To The Rain” Things pick up a bit with this good song. Still, with the quality of the producers on this record you would think that the arrangements would be better. A better arrangement could have propelled this song up the ranks a bit.

06 “He Won’t Go” There is nothing inspiring with this one. This is another example of arranging the strings in a holding pattern.

07 “Take It All” Things really slow down here with Adele’s “Desperado” approach. You can consider this song to be filler.

08 “I’ll Be Waiting” We are back into retro times with this one. This is a good song with a nice distinction between verse and chorus. There is something about this song that sounds familiar.

09 “One And Only” This sleepy song uses the same old instruments in its accompaniments. It is not a bad song. It just doesn’t go anywhere.

10 “Lovesong” This is the second best song on the album. It was written by Robert Smith and Simon Gallup, and recorded by The Cure back in 1989. One of the best hooks on this album was written into this song. The arrangement is good and this song definitely fits the mood of this album.

11 “Someone Like You” The album ends with one of Adele’s better songs. You get a good sense of Adele’s capable vocal abilities here. She’s not a great singer but is certainly able to convey emotion in her distinct way. Her sometimes scratchy voice often cracks and wobbles just enough around the pitch to leave you on the edge of your seat. Adele clearly does not have perfect pitch but her approach is perfect.

Components

Songwriting Adele is a very capable songwriter. She wrote all the songs on this record except “Lovesong.” The fact that her producers are listed as co-writers takes nothing away from Adele. In other words, these producers simply took the traditional approach of extracting some additional income from her songwriting rights. Perhaps with the success of this record she will take more credit on future releases.

Arranging Several people were involved with arranging the songs on this record. Yet for the most part no one put in the extra effort to really make this record shine. Compare the arrangements on 21 to what George Martin did on The Beatles records. Hint: they are not comparable!

Album Presentation 21 is presented professionally and looks good. There is not a lot of creativity or uniqueness. So there is not much more to say about it.

Artwork There is not a lot of artwork here. 21 is packaged in an old-style jewel case. The 12-page booklet has lots of photos of Adele which were taken by Lauren Dukoff. But there are no lyrics. There are no excuses for not having the lyrics printed in the booklet. The actual CD is neon green with the number 21 written in chalk white.

Originality There is not a lot of groundbreaking genre-stretching here. Adele’s songwriting is good. Her approach to songwriting has a bit of originality to it. These days, we will take whatever we can get.

Performance The musicians have all done a fine job. However, no one stuck their neck out to go the extra mile, except Adele. She writes and sings from the heart.
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Date: April 4, 2013
Artist:Adele
Album Title: 21
Artist's website: www.adele.tv
©2011 XL Recordings

Rating:
out of 5

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