Album Review: Adele- 30

Rowan Christina Driver dives headfirst into Adele's latest heart-poured album; a break-up album like no other.

Rowan Christina Driver
4th December 2021
@adele on Twitter
An artist’s past is not an artist’s present. Adele’s first release in six years, 30, is different from its predecessors, yet delivers timelessness in the singer’s authenticity. It is more than just an album; it is a journey.

Admittedly, on first listen, I wasn’t sure how to feel about this album. It was unexpected to say the least. As can often be the case with artists of Adele’s capacity – especially when they leave such gaps between material – enhanced expectations surrounding content and genre are established and we as an audience are left to grapple with the unfamiliarity when an artist takes a different route. That said, when these expectations are disregarded, we are often met with something great. Adele’s 30 proved no different.

Unlike most current pop releases, 30 offers traditional musicality in melodic piano motifs, old-school jazz and soulful ballads, showing at just 33 years old, Adele has already proven herself to be timeless. In content though, this material harbours an overwhelmingly contemporary openness. Containing interludes of dialogue that did at first seem misplaced and unnecessary, Adele bares all, discussing feelings of loneliness and mourning for the memories she will never get to make. On reflection, these interludes in fact contribute to the album’s resounding intimacy - it can often be easy to dehumanise stars, but this album encourages a re-examination of such perceptions. Just like the feelings we can all understand, she is lonely, and she is heartbroken.

An artist’s past is not an artist’s present.

It’s not the explosive “break-up album” we see here; it’s not the pieces falling apart, but rather, she's picking them back up again. It’s the stages of this woman’s grief, followed by a process of resolution and acceptance, and the catharsis found in the eventual emergence of hope. The easy option for Adele would have been to pick up from where she left off six years ago, a mere continuation of her acclaimed 25.

We are instead invited to explore the experiences which led her from one point in her life to another - marriage, motherhood, divorce and self-growth. We are transported musically and lyrically through it all, from the simple keyboard chord progression we hear in “Strangers By Nature” to the uplifting choral layering of “Hold On” and the fading outro of “Love Is A Game”, a symbol that Adele’s journey will go on.

Though Adele has always displayed remarkable vocal ability, her most recent work favours less of her famous subdued tones and demonstrates confidence in the extensive range indicative of a woman who has truly mastered her craft. To hit the soaring notes of “Easy On Me” is something most could only dream of, not to mention the effortless nature in which Adele achieves it.

Ultimately, Adele delivers her most personal body of material to date; 30 is the epitome of raw emotional outpouring. It is a testament to the ability of artists to diverge from expectations while remaining stylistically true to themselves. While for some it may not be the off-the-bat crowd-pleaser they anticipated, it’s an authentic piece from start to finish. “Cry your heart out, it’ll clean your face”, Adele sings – if this is the case I won’t be needing to invest in any facial scrub for a while.

In swapping elaborate metaphorical lyrics for naked honesty, we are provided with the kind of emotion to which many can relate. Adele hasn’t simply given us what we want to hear, she has given us something she truly connects with, and thus something we can truly believe; she has yet again provided us with a masterpiece in album form, but did anyone really expect any less?

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