Adele: 21

I HAVE HELD off writing about this hugely successful slice of AOR for months and months because it didn’t seem worth the effort.

Two singles. One of them, ‘Rolling In The Deep’ is generic blues middlebrow piano rock, though played with a guitar; all handclaps and bar-band explosions. The other, ‘Someone Like You’, a superb piano-based ballad, so poignant it does everything you think the idea album does, or, at least, that people have claimed the entire album does.

Yeah, ‘Someone Like You’, a woman singing  to her ex and wishing him well on his new life. Adele is so devastated on this song, begging him not to forget her and speaking to her ex, she wills him into remembering what they once were. The white key melody is glorious and even the bridge (just an overdubbed voice for effect) deepens the sadness. It makes you cry over her pain even if you’ve never suffered through a similar pain.

And the rest of the songs, which I had heard here and there, didn’t impress me much. But now with the album at the top of the charts for TWELVE WEEKS, I figured I should give it a once-over and bought it off iTunes (Spotify don’t have it -guess why).

21 is serious product parading as singer-songwriter angst. It is of a piece with all the other women, from Lily Allen to Jessie J, coming out of the UK at the moment, except with a bluesier countenance and better singing.

The songs are real easy to figure out. There are two types:

1. Fast ones.

2. Slow ones.

And they are all marginal, forgettable and average.

Bracketed by the two hits, the in-between 41 minutes are mediocre in the extreme. ‘Rumor Has It’ is just standard issue blues stomp singalong, ‘Turning Tables’ is a piano ballad, ‘Don’t You Remember’ a harmless ballad,

‘Set Fire To The Rain’? I think the metaphor speaks for itself. Senior High school angst, sturm and drang,  power ballad. Oversung, overplayed, over here.

There is no reason I can see for the album’s success except one. It fills a vacuum. This is pop music for people who want to come to terms with their inner singer-songwriter, who want to be part of a mainstream sound, but also don’t want to change. And I am fine with that. My problem is that Adele sucks as a songwriter and she is getting worse. 19 is a much better album than 21 (and 23 will be even worse, no doubt).

Adele is such a clichéd fat chick with tears on her diary and sad goodbyes to boyfriends who went on weight watchers and are dating upwards. I am not (entirely) discussing physical looks as opposed to type.

So that’s another part of the vacuum being filled. It is a romcom, tit-lit, musically mainstream. If you haven’t cried over some of these tracks you haven’t been trying.

And it is product, made by committee (not that I care one way or the other but it still isn’t James Taylor and his guitar in 1970). A tedious, pretty, vacant piece of mainstream pop for the vast middle class. Enjoy. Oh wait, you already have.

© Iman LababediRock NYC, 16 August 2011

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