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Adele, 30

12-16-2021 | By Michael Mercer | Issue 118

Adele, 30

Bravery Through Vulnerability

Adele's a global superstar. The anticipation for new releases from the reclusive singer/songwriter is always a palpable worldwide event. But super stardom comes with a heavy price, especially when you're often compared to the greats like Etta James, Aretha Franklin, and Whitney Houston. Speaking of heavy; the constant criticism thrown at the young artist has unfortunately often extended far beyond her vocal and songwriting capabilities. Adele has worked her ass off in order to get in shape over the years, and while many of us applauded her incredible efforts, she was actually body shamed for losing weight! As unimaginable as that may be, she was attacked for choosing to make the necessary changes in order to feel better about herself. Some even publicly wondered if she'd be able to sing as well after losing weight. Of course it's all ridiculous, but it's the unfortunate by-product of being such a global phenomenon. Thankfully, and not unexpectedly, Adele proved that not only can she still bring it; she answered with vigor, as 30 could very well be her most accomplished record to date. This isn't just another break up album . It's far more personal, and frankly: Far more brave. While tackling the subject of divorce through art is nothing new, the reason for Adele's recent musical journey here on 30 is even more vulnerable than the LPs that've come before it.

That's no surprise. Adele has often drawn strength from her willingness to be completely vulnerable in past records. However, what could be more brave than performing open letters to her young son Angelo about leaving his father on the world's stage? She could have written and shared these songs privately with him, but she chose to channel all those raw feelings into 30, and we are all the beneficiaries of her sheer bravery. She spoke about the process recently in an interview on NPR. She talked about wanting to have these songs for Angelo so that years from now, as he gets older, he'd always be able to listen to them and know what she was feeling, what she was walking through during the divorce, and hopefully leave him with as close to an explanation as she could muster. What a precious gift to leave her child, and what an arduous task that must've been. But to do that with honesty, integrity, and vulnerability, plus: Make it entertaining? Now that's a lofty goal to say the least. Gratefully Adele hit it outta the park on 30.

"Easy On Me" is the record's first single, and a shimmering example of what makes this record such a success on so many levels. Heart-wrenching and exposed, she turns the painful sting of separation into a gorgeous plea for forgiveness. With soulful lyrics like "go easy on me baby, I was still a child, didn't get the chance to feel the world around me, I had no time to choose what I chose to do, so go easy on me," Adele's lyrics go straight to the heart, while offering her son a glimpse of the reasoning behind her divorce. Her powerful melodic poetry aims for grace and understanding. "My Little Love" is another tender musical love letter to Angelo, including some touching recordings of the two of them together. Adele's words are playful and sincere. Angelo's adorably curious. Their interactions sound genuine and authentic. This is a tricky venture, as these types of things can easily come off as gimmicky, as mere filler, but in this case it's very tastefully executed, which makes for convincing listening. The record's not limited to breezy heartfelt ballads however, 30 also has its fair share of upbeat numbers as well.

"Cry Your Heart Out" aims for hope and recovery from the separation blues. The chorus: "Cry your heart out, clean your face. When you're in doubt, go at your own pace" sounds like a self empowerment note—reminding her to pick up the pieces and get on with it. Part of Adele's strength also comes from her directness in her lyrics. She doesn't endlessly wax poetic just for art's sake. A good example: "Please stop calling me, it's exhausting, there's really nothing left to say. I created this storm it's only fair I have to sit in this rain." She's showing her maturity here. As we get older we have less patience for fanfare, for overly glossy adjectives and unnecessary ten dollar words. At some point you gotta get to the point. "Can I Get It" is another powerful, uplifting track with a jumping guitar-driven, whistling (literally) chorus. It's a well-placed head bobber, offering a bit of a break from the more morose (though beautiful) stuff. The break doesn't last too long, as she gets right back to pulling on the heart strings for the more stripped down and soulful piano ballad "I Drink Wine." Adele showcases her rich R&B chops on "All Night Parking (with Erroll Garner) Interlude," sounding a bit like a track off Erykah Badu's timeless Baduizm album. She continues to inadvertently pay homage to the greats, channeling her inner Donny Hathaway on "To Be Loved"; a painfully beautiful song featuring nothing more than Adele's powerful, heartbroken voice and her piano.

Artists get older. The ticking clock of age is unavoidable. It happens to us all, and the changes we all walk through leave us looking and sounding different as the years march on. Adele's discography is a gift for many reasons, but one of them is their actual chronology. Named after her corresponding ages: 19, 21, 25, and now, 30, her albums are audible looking-glasses into her life at different stages; her deepest sorrows and highest triumphs. And like many of us in our late twenties, she's been through the ringer. But the true magic of this record isn't just in the lyrics, the music, or the divorce and the events surrounding it that are chronicled here. The magic of this album lies in its intent: A heartfelt letter to her son, seeking forgiveness for leaving his father and perhaps a bit of an explanation while reaching for grace. That's bravery and vulnerability, and what more can we expect from our favorite artists? Bravo Adele. Bravo

Thankfully 30's sonic attributes merit just as much praise as its musical accomplishments. The sound is spacious and dynamic. Adele's powerful vocals are full-bodied and vividly rendered. Guitars and other instrumentation are dimensional and weighty. The percussion hits with velocity and power, just like it should. Overall the sound is engaging and wide-open. A fantastic listening experience.