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Adele - Topic

21 Play

Adele's 2009 debut album, 19, was a Grammy-winning smash hit that revealed the British singer/songwriter's knack for bittersweet soul and folk-infused love songs that brought to mind an infectious mix of Dusty Springfield and Terry Callier. The album earned her a ton of fans, and interest was high for the inevitable follow-up. In many ways, her sophomore album, the similarly age-appropriate-titled 21, is a continuation of the sounds and themes Adele was working with on 19. She is still the bluesy pop diva with a singer/songwriter's soul and seemingly bottomless capacity for heartbreak. The best thing the album does is to showcase Adele's titanic vocal ability, which -- more than a few times on 21 -- is simply spine-tingling. Last time around we got the gauzy, Callier-esque folk-soul ballad "Daydreamer" to slowly draw us into the album; here, Adele immediately injects us with the propulsive gospel fever-blues anthem "Rolling in the Deep." While the track certainly owes a heavy debt to the punk-blues of Beth Ditto and the Gossip, it is also ridiculously sexy and one of the best singles of any decade. Elsewhere, we get tracks like the blues-inflected Ryan Tedder co-write "Rumour Has It" and the old-school-style soul cut "He Won't Go," which are terrifically catchy, booty-shaking numbers and exactly the kind of songs you want and expect from Adele. Similarly enthralling is the centerpiece of the album, the mega-ballad showstopper "Take It All." Co-written by her "Chasing Pavements" partner Francis White, the song begins with Adele proclaiming "Didn't I give it all?" Delivered starkly at first with Adele set against simple piano accompaniment and later backed by a gospel choir, it's an instant-classic sort of song in the tradition of "The Rose," "And I Am Telling You I Am Not Going," and "All by Myself" that could stand over the years as a career landmark for the singer and a cathartic moment for fans who identify with their idol's Pyrrhic lovelorn persona. Ultimately, Adele does give us her all on 21, and for now that is enough. ~ Matt Collar, Rovi

19 Play

With just a couple of cursory listens to the few tracks that popped up all over the Internet through 2007, comparisons were made between Adele, the much-hyped brassy British songstress, and Amy Winehouse, the...much-hyped brassy British songstress. However, after a solid listen to 19, the first full sampling by the up-and-coming Adele, listeners are forced to throw all comparisons to the wind; Adele is simply too magical to compare her to anyone. Bluesy like it's no one's business yet voluptuously funky in a contemporary way, Adele rocks out 19 with a unique voice and gritty sound that dazzle endlessly. Synthesizing blues, jazz, folk, soul, and even electric pop, Adele mystifies through her mature songwriting skills and jaw-dropping arrangements. As the album opens with "Daydreamer," Adele's illusionary instrument -- over minimal sounds -- engulfs the listener with a gorgeous feeling of awe and wonderment. On "Melt My Heart to Stone" and the bona fide hit "Chasing Pavements," Adele allows herself to soar over the strings and power her way through these incredible songs. The upbeat "Right as Rain" is just wonderful, with clear Ashford & Simpson influences speckled all over it in an upbeat set. Nearly all the tracks seem to have been nurtured to glory over months as labors of love. What's simply awesome on 19 is its capability to capture the listener through mere teasing; Adele doesn't shout for attention, and doesn't rely on anyone but herself to prove she's worth it, in the same vein as Sara Bareilles, another heavily praised artist of 2007. The jazzy "Best for Last" is as retro as the tunes get on the album, yet it still manages to steer away from being boring or old-fashioned. The only awkwardness throughout all of 19 is the overly poppy galactic "Tired," which sounds as though it might have fallen off a Lily Allen track list, something that doesn't suit Adele as a musician. As far as artistic drive goes, it seems as though Adele is hoping to capitalize on the sounds of 2007 by borrowing elements of Feist, Regina Spektor, Norah Jones, and even, yes, Amy Winehouse; yet Adele blends all the artistic pizzazz of all those ladies into her own set of manipulative, glamorous wonder. Plus, as a terrific songwriter at merely 20 years of age, the Brit has so much room to expand her artistic dimensions into a full-fledged artist that it's no wonder most critics see her as the top new talent of 2008. This debut isn't an empty promise of a great career; 19 is a fleshed-out stunning portrayal of a young woman with a talent beyond her years who deserves immense credit for a unique style that never fails. A beyond stellar debut in both quality and originality. ~ Matthew Chisling, Rovi

iTunes Festival: London 2011 Play

Recorded during the summer of 2011, this EP collects six songs from Adele’s appearance at the iTunes Festival. Adele had lost her voice earlier that summer, requiring a monthlong break from singing as she recovered from a bad case of laryngitis. She isn’t back to 100 percent here -- the crowd has to help her sing the high notes in “Rolling in the Deep,” and she seems to run out of breath during other songs -- but a partially rehabilitated Adele is still more powerful than most vocalists operating at full capacity. These six tracks include blustery anthems and piano-based ballads, running the gamut from “Rumor Has It” to “Turning Tables.” Also featured is a cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” made all the more tender by the rarely heard frailties in Adele’s voice. ~ Andrew Leahey, Rovi
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