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Written Before Listen

Adele is back and after 5 years of no music. Coming into this, I’ve never heard an Adele album in full but from what I’ve heard from her, I’m not big on her. She has an amazing voice and she uses it to the best of her abilities, but what ruins it for me is that she makes very commercial and center-of-the-line music. With that being said, let’s see how this album turns out and without further ado, let’s get into it.

Vocal Performance

I’ll start by talking about the positives. The singing (like usual) is fantastic. Adele is THAT singer of the last decade and she continues to hoan that title. It’s like how people (including myself) saw Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. Amazing singers that were agreed upon many as not only the best singers of all time but some of the flashiest singers of all time. Most tracks have the same powerful chorus, vibrato heavy timbre, and occasional high notes at the end but The end of the album is where things get real. The song “To Be Loved” might be the most impressive Adele vocal performance I’ve ever heard. Only being backed up by a piano, her vocals stand out like Kramers haircut. The final track is also an amazing vocal performance as Adele is backed up by something more soulful and luxurious. Overall, I think Adele is her usual self vocally but I wish she used it more consistently.


What differentiates Adele from most contemporary singers is that her songwriting is a prime focus on her music. Due to her recent divorce, a lot of the songs are focused on it and I know it must bother her and all of that, but….it gets redundant. I will still admit that she does have some strong songwriting points, especially on the longer tracks. The song “My Little Love” is not only a foreshadowing of “To Be Loved”, but it has a heart-shattering way of provoking divorce. The hardest part about divorce is supporting your kids and how the kid will deal with it. The voice memo at the end of “My Little Love” is just very hard to listen to. On the other hand, It’s not like she’s the most skilled songwriter either. She puts a lot of reality in her words but not enough personality. Even if you went through a simple breakup, you can’t shelf it into your own situation. Overall, I have my pros and cons about her songwriting. Some of it appears strong and some of it just goes by you without hesitation.


The biggest question for the producers on this entire album is how to use Adele’s vocals. They have a choice to accommodate her vocals to different styles, bring emotion in her vocals, experiment or do what they do here, stick to her comfort zone. There are definitely rules and limits to processing Adeles vocals. No special effects and use the formal building blocks on vocals (Extra bonus if they use analog gear). They surely do that but the artistic aspect is lacking in a major way. With a voice like her, we need production that is rather super minimal or super transcendental. Except for a couple of tracks, the producers over-commercialize her sound. What a shame.


I think my biggest complaint is the instrumental choices. They keep it super simple. Pianos, acoustic guitars, electric pianos, and occasional drums. Surely there are exceptions like “My Little Love” and “Love Is A Game” but except for “To Be Loved”, she needed more instrumentation. We get it, she has a voice of a generation but it could be much more powerful if they added more. Add some drums on “Easy On Me”, add some strings on “I Drink Wine”, hell add a 40s swing sound on this thing. What I’m saying is that if they differentiated the piano ballads, the strongest ones would stand out even more than they should.

Favorite Tracks

Despite how I feel about the album as a whole, there are some truly strong points. The opening track is a great traditional pop song with a nice electric piano sound. I like the dynamics, I like Adele’s subject matter and overall approach to this sound. The final three tracks are also amazing. “Hold On” has a very strong chord progression and instrumental progression. “To Be Loved” is just Adele at her strongest and “Love Is A Game” is a luxurious ending. I will also say that Adele herself kills it, but I wish the producers went even stronger on the ambition and attention to detail.


I guess my takeaway on this album is that Adele deserves the hype on the vocal aspect, but her aim for aesthetic the charts brings her sound down. I think it’s time for her to expand her sound.



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