Strangers By Nature
Easy On Me
My Little Love
Cry Your Heart Out
Oh My God
Can I Get It
I Drink Wine
All Night Parking (Interlude) with Erroll Garner
Woman Like Me
To Be Loved
Love Is A Game
When Adele released her first LP back in 2008, it set the foundations for a rollercoaster ride of pop delights to follow. Her follow-up, 21, took all the feedback onboard and stormed the charts, dropping bangers like Rolling In The Deep , Set Fire To The Rain and Someone Like You; wildly popular pop tracks that never compromised on Adele’s vocal quality. 25 felt like a step-up in many ways, mixing pop and soul with an album full of retrospective and thought provoking lyrics.
With wild highs and fame comes an impossible expectation to outdo the last, and it’s something many artists struggle to achieve. Like a sequel to a wildly popular movie, only a few can shine and satisfy newcomers and long-time fans alike.
Written between 2018 and 2012 alongside various producers (including Greg Kurstin, Tobias Jesso Jr., Max Martin and Shellback, all of whom worked with on 25) comes a mature, raw and absolutely heart-wrenching album in 30.
Gone are the pop anthems and floor-filling bangers (unless you count head-bopping ‘Oh My God’ or the upbeat ‘Cry Your Heart Out’) and in its place is a musical journey through Adele’s divorce to ex-husband Simon Konecki. It’s a raw, unflinching look at separation and all the highs and lows that come from that. There’s also a good amount of material tackling motherhood and the very-real cost of fame too.
The first track ‘Strangers By Nature’ ultimately works as a warm-up of sorts. There’s not a lot of substance beyond Adele’s great voice, and the end line “Alright then, I’m ready” feels like an affirmation of sorts, confirming that the album is about to begin.
The rest of the album is an equal mix of lofty highs and not-quite-amazing highs. 30 is never dull or dreary, with every song feeding into a larger story. If there’s one gripe here it’s that early tracks like “Easy On Me” and “My Little Love” are SO good that the back-end of this LP struggles to be heard.
Tonally, there’s a lot going on and Adele jumps through a number of different genres across the hour-long run-time, dabbling in more soulful ballads and a much larger, cinematic production overall. That may sound strange for an album but the sonic feels much more expansive, with interesting and wildly different directions across the run-time. There are echoes of jazz, soul, vocal samples and even light wisps of electronica too. And yet, through it all, this is undeniably an Adele record.
Now, it would be remiss not to mention the absolute brilliance of “My Little Love.” It’s not just an outstanding record, it’s easily one of the top tracks this year. The vocal samples from Adele and her son Angelo build a bigger picture into the emotion behind her divorce, while the entire 6 minute track tells a very deliberate and heartfelt story about the pains, resentment and loneliness Adele has been suffering from. It really is quite an extraordinary track.
Unlike 21, which hit the topic of divorce and break-ups with much more ferocity and fierce anger, 30 feels a little more reflective and that’s echoed in the instruments used here, with lots more dreamy string segments, bites of echo and instrumental soundbites.
There’s been a lot of hype behind 30 and it’s easy to see why. Adele has been consistently great across all of her LPs and this album is thankfully no exception. ‘My Little Love’, ‘I Drink Wine’, ‘Can I get It’ and ‘Oh My God’ are arguably the best on the whole album but the diverse range of tracks make it an easy one to recommend.
Adele has done it again; 30 is a brilliant album and easily in the running for best of 2021.
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Verdict - 9/10