Adele returns to follow-up her 2008 debut, 19, with the not-so-imaginatively titled 21. Two years older and two years wiser, Adele is the first of that stable of ‘next-big-thing’ British female artists (see Florence, Ellie, Marina, et al) to enter into difficult second album territory – and to say she’s setting the bar high is an understatement.
Opening track ‘Rolling in the Deep’ generated a lot of online hype in advance of the album release – and justifiably so. It’s a statement song, an emphatic beginning to this coming-of-age album from Adele. ‘Rumour Has It’ also makes its mark as a standout track early on, all pounding percussion with impeccable melody and an almost sinister undertone. It’s a certain hit.
Of course the mere mention of Adele’s name immediately conjures notions of piano ballads (thanks in part to X Factor contestants’ unrelenting butchery of her version of ‘Make You Feel My Love’), and there’s certainly no shortage of them here. As a songwriter, Adele’s ability to convey matters of the heart is astounding – the passion and raw emotion which she evidently pours into her work is as brave as it is beautiful. Album closer ‘Someone Like You’ is testament not only to this, but to the sheer power of her voice, too – with soaring vocals against a simple piano backdrop, it’s an astonishingly sad song; the pièce de résistance of 21. The record deserves every bit of praise that will inevitably come its way once it is unleashed on the masses. A must-have album for 2011.