Hello readers! I’m Protyay Chakraborty and this is my first review for TunesForToday, so I’ll start off with some introduction to my dark, shady existence. I’m a semi-professional vocalist and violinist, amateur song/content writer and a professional procrastinator. My favourite genres in music span from mind-boggling progressive rock and metal, to heart wrenching singer-songwriter and folk music, and a lot of things in between. I love looking up and listening to relatively obscure artists and music, both because it often offers many hidden gems, and I can snobbishly look down upon musically illiterate heathens (“You’ve not heard of Technical Blackened Latin Jazz Metalcore? Huh. “) But since this is my first review, I’ll start off with something more accessible and popular. Later on I’ll delve into the weirder, more obscure part of my playlist. Stay tuned!
Summary: Adele’s sheer vocal brilliance effortlessly carries what is a mixed bag of an album, with some truly haunting, beautiful songs sitting with comparatively lackluster, generic pop produce.
First off, let me just say that Adele is a phenomenal singer. As a vocalist, I enormously admire her technical prowess as well as emotional depth. Her voice has an exceptional tone, powerful punch, amazing agility, and an ability to combine all these with tremendous soul such that her singing can be appreciated by the technical crowd and the laymen alike. The way she nails live performances gains extra respect points from me.
Nevertheless, a good singer doesn’t automatically mean great songwriting. The first track, the already viral “Hello”, is quite frankly, gorgeous. Surprisingly, I didn’t really like the track when I first watched the video on YouTube, probably because the video was distracting from actually listening to the song. Eh well, never judge audio by its video. Adele’s resonating vocals, produced with ample reverb and space, sits beautifully amidst the minimal instrumentation and deep, distant percussion. The song is a real tearjerker, and Adele’s flawless delivery makes it hit right at home. The album thus sets one of those beautifully melancholic moods, characteristic of solitary late nights and long drives….
…and then ruins it in the second track. “Send my Love” is one of those sugary pop songs, with a sassy attitude and an annoying chorus, completely ruining the sense of fragility set by the opening track. Perhaps this would have been less of an annoyance if the track appeared later in the album, but the song placement seriously hampers the album’s emotional progression.
The album then sets off into more standard pop territory. “I Miss You” has a nice atmosphere with a Darkwave vibe reminiscent of Evanescence, but at its 5:49 runtime, gets repetitive with no real variation in the structure. “When We Were Young” is a typical pop ballad, and wasn’t too memorable for me. “Remedy” however, has a pleasant piano motif, and is very catchy and melodic, building up to a great chorus, and befitting end. After this, the album plunges into a string of quite unmemorable tracks like “Water Under the Bridge” and “River Lea”, which again, are very generic songs with standard structures and no melodies that would stand out in your mind.
The next highlight of the album is “Love in the Dark”. Okay, confession: I’m a sucker for lush, emotive string sections. This song immediately caught my attention with the shimmering sound of the cello, and coupled with some of Adele’s best vocals in the album, the soundscape becomes wrought with intensity, while still maintaining the sense of delicateness. The song builds up to grandeur, and leaves a lasting impression.
After the presence of the preceding song, the somewhat clichéd “Million Years” and “All I Ask” don’t make much of an impact, but “Sweetest Devotion” has a wonderful, nostalgic melody line, and makes for a fitting album ender. I listened to the Target exclusive version of the album, which has 3 additional tracks, namely “Can’t Let Go”, “Lay Me Down” and “Why Do You Love Me”, but honestly all three songs, though not terrible, don’t really add much to the musical value of the album in my opinion.
Lyrically, the album doesn’t break any new ground, sticking to the usual musings about love, loss, regret, and moving on. They are by no means bad, but there is no creative imagery, no inspired metaphors or clever wordplay that we find with the likes of Damien Rice or Regina Spektor.
The songwriting isn’t spectacular for the most part, nor is there much musical experimentation or instrumental virtuosity, but hey, this is an album made to be a hit, not a music theory course, and that purpose it will undoubtedly serve well.
In conclusion, this album is pleasant. Adele’s vocals are breathtaking as ever, the slick production is on point, and the songs range from mesmerizing to ‘meh’, which, truth be told, already is a whole lot better than much of modern mainstream pop. It’s the perfect kind of album to spend a rainy day listening to, with a steaming cup of coffee in your hand, letting Adele’s voice take you back to the good and bad of your relationships. ‘25’ is by no means genre defining, and I’m not sure if Adele has even surpassed her own previous work, but it is enough to become a huge hit (“Hello” has already clocked over half a billion YouTube hits) and get her another Santa’s bag full of awards next year. She is in the prime of her career and popularity, and this will be a solid, albeit not legendary addition to her repertoire.
Hello, Remedy, Love in the Dark, Sweetest Devotion
The iTunes link to the album: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/25/id1051394208