Adele shows talent, not a spectacle on '21'

Courtesy of Columbia

BY CHLOE STACHOWIAK
Daily Arts Writer
Published February 20, 2011

In a music industry haunted by Britney Spears scandals and gimmicky Gaga stunts, it’s no wonder female performers get such a bum rap. Our culture buzzes with reasons to dismiss these artists as superficial or corny — after all, how seriously can you take someone who sings about brushing her teeth with alcohol?

Adele


21
Columbia

Don’t be fooled by her multiple award nominations, Grammys and frequent VH1 Radio Countdown appearances: Adele is more than your average mainstream artist. With her raw, honest voice and bluesy style, the 22-year-old singer-songwriter has used the power of her music alone to rise to the top of pop charts. By releasing her second album, 21, the British star has proven once again that she has what it takes to stand out from her peers — without the aid of reality shows or bubble costumes.

Despite the popularity of sleazy pop songs and overwhelming dance beats, 21’s sincerity is what makes it shine. Its earnestness is felt in “Don’t You Remember,” a simple yet powerful ballad of a relationship gone awry. Though its topic and lyrics aren’t revolutionary by any means, Adele’s singing style glosses the song with gusto. Her voice is tinged with passion and pain, taking on the qualities of soft and explosive tones as she pleas for her lost lover to return. It’s a voice that makes even the most generic “please remember me” lines moving, resonating with any girl who has suffered from a broken heart. As she sings, it’s tempting to find the guy she’s singing about on Facebook and send him a meddling message to bring the two back together — anything to console her heartfelt wails.

Though they probably won’t bring listeners to their knees in empathy, 21’s faster tracks are just as authoritative as “Don’t You Remember.” Numbers like “Rolling in the Deep” swing with soul and emotional fury, creating a musical storm with chorus-style backup vocals and jazzy instruments. The lead vocals thunder with confidence as Adele threatens some scumbag: “You're gonna wish you had never met me.” It’s the kind of track — bold and irresistibly catchy — that inspires impromptu car singing sessions, unapologetically filling the vehicle with bass and girl power.

However, not all of 21 lives up to the vigor of “Don’t You Remember” and “Rolling in the Deep.” Some tracks, like “Lovesong,” sound stale — though not unpleasant, they just don’t create the same emotional rush as other, funkier numbers. Still, Adele’s radiant vocals help to salvage even the least exciting parts of the album, adding personal touches to otherwise average tales of heartache.

There is something to be said for Adele’s modest musical style and the popularity it’s gaining — rivaling artists with more years of experience, more album releases and larger wig collections. 21 is a breath of fresh, natural air in an industry that quakes with gaudy personas and tabloid appearances. With its fiery vocals and punchy instrumentals, the album gives hope to the future of mainstream pop: Maybe one day musicians will be judged solely on their sound, not their resemblance to a Ringling Brothers act.