RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer
Since the wave of the Amy Winehouse-led British soul invasion of 2007 has winded down, we can now focus directly on the work of Adele. She rode that tide with an impressive debut, 19, that garnered her two Grammys. But where 19 showcased her husky soulful voice, her sophomore album, 21, shows us her emotional side. And it’s kinda schizophrenic.
Adele explodes out of the gate with “Rolling in the Deep,” also the first single. A powerful song reflecting shades of Florence and the Machine beats, it’s also a declarative opener that this isn’t the meek 19-year-old we were introduced two years ago. She’s empowered — we think.
Following that with “Rumour Has It,” a similarly strong (and groovy) track, and the ballad “Turning Tables,” Adele clearly wants us to know that she’s not taking shit from her man. Lyrics like Next time I’ll be my own savior / Standing on my own two feet really define her attitude and set the tone for 21.
Until track four.
Adele does a 180 with “Don’t You Remember.” Structurally, the ballad is delicate, but she almost begins apologizing for her feelings, singing words like I know I have a fickle heart and a bitterness. It’s almost a let-down to hear her cave in as if her strong will didn’t work for her; now she’s gonna beg for her man — and do it for the next four songs.
If her emotions change mid-album, her sound changes distinctly for one. “I’ll Be Waiting” may not have the twang, but it’s boisterousness is distinctly pop-country and would be right at home on a Carrie Underwood album. Despite the shift, the album refreshes here. Horns blare and piano keys are abundant, but her voice in this capacity has wonderful effect.
The one real hiccup in the album is her cover of The Cure’s “Lovesong.” The idea behind it sounds curious and with minimal guitar arrangement behind her, it should work. Instead, it seems random. I’m never sure what it adds to the album and it doesn’t improve so much on the original. Perhaps she thought 10 tracks weren’t enough, so “let’s throw in a cover.”
Regardless of her emotional turns, what really keeps 21 afloat is Adele’s voice. The musical arrangements are slightly veiled in their production, giving Adele’s voice center stage. That gravelly sound is so beautifully rich that you just want to bathe in it and never get out. She goes places vocally Winehouse or Duffy can’t.
As if that’s not enough, Adele wrote or co-wrote all of the original songs. The tracks are mature but don’t sound too big for her to handle. The album shines on her strong writing as well and the potential of what it could be down the road for her. Which could be greatness.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.