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Adele '25' review: our verdict on the new album

In February 2012, at the height of her post-’21’ pomp, Adele Adkins told a reporter: ‘I can’t write another break-up record. That would be a real cliché. It would just be a boring running theme. I think people will be like: “I think I’ve had enough now, cheer up”.’ 

She kinda nailed it. 

The fastest way to explain ‘25’ – one of the most tremendously fêted albums ever – is to say that there’s nothing on it as scorching and pulse-racing as ‘Rolling in the Deep’, and there’s nothing so overwhelmingly moving as ‘Someone Like You’. That in itself doesn’t make it a bad album – but it’s what 99 percent of people will think after that all-important first listen. It’s no ‘21’. 

After the insane success of that breakthrough second album, Adele could have had it all. She could have travelled the world, broadened her horizons, learned new tricks. Reinvention was within her grasp. 

The fact that Adele has eschewed reinvention this time around, and instead tried to make a whole album of ‘Someone Like You’s, is a shame. But the fact that ‘25’ is as innovative as a flip phone isn’t a reason to criticise it. So here’s one: 

It’s a bit dull.

Now, that’s not to say it’s not worth a listen. Wailers and wallowers in particular should rest assured – ‘25’ is still a festival of sadness, a ruptured tear duct gushing out woe like an unmanned fire hose. If you only hear one piano ballad this year, make it ‘All I Ask’ – written with Bruno Mars yet pleasantly reminiscent of the great Whitney Houston. 

The trouble is, from the start of ‘Hello’ to the very end of ‘Sweetest Devotion’, the whole album is smothered in so much monotonous and melancholy piano that all the songwriting, and all those vocal details, blur into one. You crave the odd moment of rock abandon, like ‘21’s ‘Rumour Has It’, but it never comes. The only real surprise is the presence of Max Martin (the Swedish super-songwriter responsible for hits by Britney, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift) who looms large over one of the album’s only great (poppy) leaps forward – ‘Send My Love (To Your New Lover)’, which pleasingly recalls The Knife’s ‘Heartbeats’.

That song, along with others, mines the passing of time and the age-old discomfort of getting older as a primary source of sorrow. Yet Adele is still only 27 years old. Most people would consider that young – in the same way, sadly, most people will consider ‘25’ a bit dull.  

Our verdict: ★★☆☆☆

In need of more weepy tunes? Here's our top 50 sad songs. *Tissues at the ready.*

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Comments

5 comments
lyric m

Luv adele she is an amazing singer i sing great to but not as deep as her 

Sara W

I never got the Adele thing. She's ok, don't get me wrong. But in a way, she is just an average vocalist; we've heard amazing voices, from Aretha to Whitney in our lives, and she's no where near in that league.

As a songwriter, too, she's ok: it's the decade of break up songs, and she may be doing that better than others, but basically that's the one trick of this pony (and many others).

It was sort of coming that she would do a 'Oops I did it again'; no one thought she would change her 'sound'. Those who like to feel sad about breakups (many, it seems, even if they are in the happiest relationship of their lives, like to feel miserable nowadays - even those who have nothing to grumble about or have never even had a relationship!) will get their tissues out and feel so sorry for themselves while listening to it.

But this is the decade of break up songs; it's a fashion, and one I don't understand. I prefer to go out clubbing and find my real soul mate (or at least have some fun while I'm at it), than mope about my previous one. Babes, you've had your chance; I shed my tears and without the help of a sad song, and now I'm moving on...

Luke Marcus N

Sorry but how exactly does that song sound ANYTHING like Heartbeats? Don't insult Karin, The Knife make real music ;)