Adele, Adele 19 Album Review
I must have either been asleep or totally not paying attention way back in 2007.
Because the way I see it now, those are the only two possible reasons that I could have missed Adele Adkins’ swift transition from an unknown British singer with a MySpace page to a full-fledged superstar-in-waiting.
Better make that full-fledged superstar.
Without the waiting.
But as it was, I didn’t fall under the spell of the charming Adele until she made her late October, 2008 appearance on Saturday Night Live, performing a couple of mind-melding songs from her debut full-length release, 19.
So thank you Saturday Night Live, for from that night on, I promise you I shall never lose track of the phenomenal Adele again.
Apparently, I’m not alone, either.
19 has earned the English singer, songwriter four Grammy nominations and has found Adele a worldwide audience for her considerable wares.
Not bad for a young lady barely out of her teens.
And it may be that Adele has just scratched the surface of all that she is poised to accomplish.
Not only gifted with the voice of an angel, Adele is also a talented guitarist and a fantastic songwriter. She wrote eight of the 12 tracks on 19 by herself. On three cuts (“Chasing Pavements,” “Melt My Heart to Stone” and “Tired”) she shares song-writing credit with White Stripes/Raconteurs main-man Jack White. The lone song on 19 that Adele did not have a part in composing is a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love.”
For one so young, just 20, Adele has managed to do a splendid job of capturing a sense of yearning over love, and lost love, that should be hard for a person of her age to fathom.
That feeling couldn’t be any more evident than on the single “Chasing Pavements,” a tune that should be a smash on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Chasing Pavements” was one of the two songs Adele performed on SNL, with the other being “Cold Shoulder.”
A reflective tune inspired by an episode outside a pub where Adele punched a cheating lover in the face, “Chasing Pavements” really comes to life on its beautiful, wistful chorus, where a soaring string arrangement pushes Adele’s voice to impossible heights.
At the other end of the spectrum is the album opener, “Daydreamer,” a song that looks back at a former boyfriend, with just Adele and her acoustic guitar in the mix, giving the song an almost relaxed, back-porch kind of pace.
The retro-sounding (in a good way) “Best For Last” starts off with some jazzy, standup bass and was the B-side of “Hometown Glory,” a cut about living in Tottenham, England, that was released on 7-inch vinyl in October of 2007.
“Hometown Glory” is a piano-driven tune that gives Adele plenty of space to wax about independence and standing up for what you believe in.
“First Love,” a song about moving on from a first relationship to another, while asking for forgiveness, goes the untraditional route of featuring a glockenspiel, giving the song a child-like lullaby feel.
After the low-key “First Love,” things get swinging again with “Right as Rain,” bouncing along at a brisk tempo with stabs of Hammond organ pushing the pace.
Comparisons to fellow British songster Amy Winehouse and Welsh powerhouse Duffy really don’t do Adele the justice she so rightfully deserves. Although all three have garnered a major buzz over the course of the past 16 months so, and all three are excellent artists, there lies a world of difference in their singing styles.
Winehouse is more gritty, her voice coated with a layer of sleaze, probably due in large part to the life that she leads. In kind of a weird twist, Adele did graduate from BRIT School, a school that Winehouse also attended.
Duffy, blessed with a incredible voice also, is more poppish, kind of reminiscent of Dusty Springfield in her hey-day.
Adele is the bluesist voice of the three young women, and it would take no stretch of the imagination to fathom her on the roster of the legendary Chess Records back in the early 1960s.
And that shouldn’t be a surprise, since Adele is quick to call Etta James as one of her singing idols.
Like James, Adele sings smooth as butter, with a shot of red-eye mixed in for an added edge.
“Tired” is really the only throwaway cut on Adele’s 19, a tune that just seems to run out of steam before it reaches where it’s trying to go.
Rare in this day and time is a debut album that comes along and provides a breath of fresh air, while also providing us a glimpse of a seemingly fully developed talent.
But Adele's 19 has done just that.
Let’s hope that she grows up a bit more gracefully and ages a bit better than Winehouse did.
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