Released 20 November 2015 by XL Recordings.
Length: 48 minutes 25 seconds.
‘Hello, it’s me … They say that time’s supposed to heal ya…But I ain’t done much healing’ … We hear you. We hear the inevitability of the passage of time. This album laments the past devastation of heartbreak and memories that weren’t meant to be. Yet living means turning our back on one-way roads and after listening to this album, I felt like I was still travelling back down the same memory lanes. Adele, I thought we set these memories ablaze in the last album?
Don’t get me wrong – the album definitely showcases the maturity of her voice and her undeniable talent. There are songs on this album that renders it irrelevant whether or not we have traveled down these acoustic paths before. If it clicks it clicks. “Hello” brings back grief and memories of moments where we have regretted words that were left unsaid. It encapsulates the fragility of the moment leaving the realisation that the passage of time renders words meaningless.
Personally, with my penchant for the dramatic, I have “All I Ask” on repeat – it sounds appealingly like a soaring number on a successful Broadway musical. The song croons to a lover on what is to be their final night together. There is drama and vulnerability in the moments where she demands “Give me a memory I can use,” before surrendering to the inevitable heartbreak. It makes me wish that if need be, I will possess the same grace and resilience when saying goodbye.
That said, not many tracks click for me on this album. Her previous albums explored a multitude of raw emotions and 25 pales in comparison. There is only so much melodrama that we can deal with before feeling a bit saccharine. Whilst no one buys an Adele album looking for sonic innovation, the compilation of songs became so similar that it was difficult to experience them without thinking: damn, you can’t keep tearing at my heart strings; I’m tired of feeling sad.
Adele promised an album that wasn’t just about the past, but one that rose above that and celebrates the loves and successes that she has personally experienced. It is difficult to see her being limited by the same formulas utilised in the past. Maybe this is why the album feels disjointed – it revisits feelings that no longer resonate in the present. The album may be vocally stronger than ever but tracks are composed in such predictable ways that they begin to meld.
“Sweetest Devotion” is the album’s final push and biggest standout in terms of diversity. It is pure a joy and triumph that is unique not just for the album but for any of her past albums. Whilst it is emotionally satisfying to reminisce over the melancholy of “Hello”, it is thrilling to celebrate her happiness. It should have been an album of self-actualisation, of experiencing the depth and variety of human emotion without the lens and ambiguities of past heartbreak.
Because is that not the nature of life? There are moments where we all wallow in regret. We set our past on fire with our rage. We mourn the things left unsaid. But at the end of it all, there is an emotional clarity in letting go and believing that we deserve so much more. Adele’s passionate voice is one that deserves more than revisiting the past.
Purchase Adele: 25 on Google Play
Cover Art sourced from XL Recordings