Adele, “25”

Adele-2015-25_cover_hi-resAdele
25
XL/COLUMBIA
7/10

Adele’s voice is grander than a canyon and more epic (and ready for battle) than a stack of Star Wars sequels. Combine that strong, nuanced voice with an ability to compose appropriately dynamic songs, and she is this era’s Frank Sinatra or Dusty Springfield—a vocal artist that songwriters long to write with and work for in order to define their moment. With that, 25 is sumptuous; it’s ballad heavy, yet every note teems with emotional investment, from opener “Hello” to the album’s near-closing, tear-jerking trio of “Love in the Dark,” the ’60s-style “Million Years Ago,” and the Bruno Mars co-write “All I Ask.” The faster, more fulsome songs among 25‘s clean, cosmopolitan Pop&B (Adele’s woozy musical brand if ever there was) move with tenderness and swaying soul—especially  on “Water Under the Bridge” and “River Lea,” the latter being a gospel tune from Danger Mouse that finds the British singer flowing in a sultry lower register. The main reason 25 isn’t a total knockout for Adele is the unfortunate inclusion of the seemingly forced, Latin-laced number “Send My Love (to Your New Lover).” Adele has the talent and the reach to work with just about whoever she wants and the roster here (Mars, Tobias Jesso Jr., Paul Epworth, Ryan Tedder) proves it; why she gives the second track spot to a collaboration with overplayed producer/songwriter Max Martin is a mystery. Oh well, near-perfection is always a welcome problem.

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