19, let alone her powerful hit "Chasing Pavements," before hearing something from her again. Yes, that album was that good! But people are all to familiar with the sophomore curse (where the artist either has the album shelved or it blows). Does Adele fall victim to that curse with 21?
Adele fires off 21 with "Rolling In The Deep," which highlights her throwback, Motown sound. While it's evident early that she's proving she's back like she never left, this is a sound that is beginning to go through the "let's play this out" phase. Fortunately, she later displays new perspectives in her songwriting, singing abilities and trying new sounds. The bad news is each and every songs is plagued by her out-the-booth affairs.
Can't knock her retro vibe though! The most surprising tracks on this album are "Rumour Has It" and "If It Hadn't Been For Love" because Adele steps out of the box folks have put her in while sticking to her retro roots.
Throughout 21 Adele's sound extends from just sounding retro, thanks to different variations in her singing, the production and her attitude. "Take It All" is a great example of this, as there are hints of almost every ballad-driven/uplifting genre (Gospel, Country, even Classical) plus her overall attitude towards her heartbreak. Instead of chasing her guy, she's telling him she doesn't want anything to do with him. "I'll Be Waiting" successfully shows her overall growth, as she gives listeners a new side to her vocal style. It's a refreshing song - it has that happy AT&T commercial feel to it.
21 has the most unique production clan with this year's music, which in turn makes Adele a more diverse artist than her previous work. Whereas 19 seemed one-dimensional in production, sound, lyrics, etc, this album is on some hi-def, 3D-type stuff. With the help of Rick Rubin and countless others, Adele improves dramatically as far as her sound goes.
In all of this "you can't tear me down" type of songwriting, the bad news (if you wanna call it that) is that each and every song is plagued by her out-the-booth affair with her former boyfriend. It's safe to say that the entire second half of 21's tracks reeks of heartbreak, revenge and empowerment (in that order). Luckily, these three raging emotions, as delivered by Adele, terrificly complement one another. Not to mention the artistry laced in every song.
Overall, there is no bad track on 21. One would think after winning a Grammy and having the greatest ballads of this generation that Adele would fall back. Instead she uses it get stronger, even through her breakup. Hopefully, this trend of making heartbreak songs will end soon with her because the world already has Jazmine Sullivan. Sorry, but it's true!
Star's Grade: A-