CD OF THE WEEK :21 XL*****
Two years ago the majestic Chasing Pavementsannounced Adele Laurie Blue Adkins to the world. The song was as perfect an amalgam of soul/blues/pop as you could get, with echoes of Alison Moyet and the influences of greats such as Etta James in how the young Londoner went about her beguiling work. The album it came from ( 19) did buckle a bit under the strain of trying too hard, but there was enough there to convince that Adele wasn’t just another wannabe straight off the Brit School assembly line.
Staying with naming albums after her current age, 21 finds a very different Adele. It was produced by two of the best names in the business (Rick Rubin and Paul Epworth), and Adele calls it more “dark bluesy gospel” than 19. There’s a sense of musical growth, along with a new bite to the lyrics.
The impossibly catchy first single, Rolling in the Deep, sounds like it was dreamed up in a laboratory by boffins
intent on fusing the very best bits of Florence the Machine and Amy Winehouse – there’s an almost Ronettes-style swagger to it.
Hooking up with perhaps the best pop songwriter in the world today, Ryan Tedder, yields dividends on both Rumour Has It(disco-soul) and Turning Tables(a piano ballad that channels the spirit of Bonnie Tyler). To really propel the latter’s melody line, Adele works her voice to get that extra bit of resonance.
There’s no let-up in quality over 21’s12 tracks, though. Don’t You Rememberdrifts into that sort of horrible overblown Leona Lewis territory a bit too much for its own good (it’s the sort of song you can see any number of X Factorcontestants making a right haim’s of).
Adele fares much better when she ups the tempo on the likes of Set Fire to the Rain, which, like many of the songs here, has a slight country undertow to it. And watch out here for the majestic closing track, Someone Like You– a torch song exquisitely delivered. Brilliant. See adele.tv
Download tracks: Rolling in the Deep, Someone Like You