Adele – 21 (2011)

Hack Stats

BBC Music – 10
The Telegraph – 10
Music OMH – 9
The Hackskeptic – 8
Q Magazine – 8
The Guardian – 8
NME – 6
Independent On Sunday – 6
Uncut – 4
The Independent – 4

Average – 7.3/10

Although it topped the chart in the UK, Adele Adkins debut (“19”) was a mixed affair. The singles were undoubtedly fine introductions to the smoky voiced soul singer, but much of the content rested too heavily on pop safety and a sound that seemed more faux soul than the organic entity it should have been. In addition, Duffy had stolen the headlines, dominating the airwaves, consigning the teenager to distant runner up. Two years later, with a world of wisdom at her disposal, a nasty relationship breakdown to add scorn to the pen, and a set of producers (including Rick Rubin and Paul Epworth) who are well versed in polishing up rough diamonds into crown jewels, the singer has produced a set of songs of intimate and emotional depth far beyond her debut. Mainly built around soul, with touches of blues, country and torch, she overwhelms the listener with an authentic vocal personality that genuinely defies her tender years.

Pitch perfect, she strikes early with the magnificent “Rolling In The Deep”, which generates from a verse that’s sparsely instrumented allowing a smouldering bluesy vocal backed by a hard marching beat, which explodes to a chorus that recalls Dusty at her best. “Don’t You Remember” will be one of the best country songs of the year, and proves that Adele isn’t afraid to push the generic buttons beyond expectations. Her cover of The Cure’s “Lovesong” is both restrained and respectful to the original and although an unusual choice, fits well within the collection. “Set Fire To The Rain” has daytime radio laced through it and will undoubtedly succeed in the charts. She saves her most committed and heartfelt performance until last with the moving ballad “Someone Like You”. With lyrics that purge all the bitterness that wells within she almost pulls off a staggering performance, save for the last minute and climax, where her voice finally begins to breakdown and lose its earthy vitality to a strained whine.

The maturity with which she delivers these 11 songs is astonishing, brought to life by her undeniable vocal ability and a commitment to deliver beautifully crafted songs without ever having to resort to calculated melodrama. Adele has without doubt, come of age.

8/10

Track By Track Rating

1 Rolling in the Deep – 10
2 Rumour Has It – 7
3 Turning Tables – 8
4 Don’t You Remember – 9
5 Set Fire to the Rain – 8

6 He Won’t Go – 7
7 Take It All – 8
8 I’ll Be Waiting – 7
9 One and Only – 8
10 Lovesong – 7

11 Someone Like You – 7

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