Review: Adele's '25' a massive, expansive soundtrack to the next two years of your love life
Hello. Water Under the Bridge. When We Were Young. Remedy.
There you go. Those are the songs from Adele’s 25 you’ll be hearing ad nauseum in coffee shops, on television, at awards shows and in every other conceivable walk of life over the next two years. Those songs will be inescapable. If you stayed up last night and bought 25 at midnight, you’re probably listening to them on repeat as we speak.
And, let’s be honest, you probably did buy 25, or at least pre-order it. According to Billboard, 25 could sell as many as 2.5 million copies in its first week alone, which would top the 2000 record of 2.4 million set by ‘N Sync’s No Strings Attached. By Christmas, sales could top 4 million, an unthinkable pace in this digital day and age.
So yes, we are now officially living in the age of 25. But what does that age sound like?
Adele’s third album bears some of the hallmarks of its predecessors 21 and 19 – big, sweeping piano ballads like Love In the Dark and All I Ask; gospel-tinged soul songs like River Lea; knife-to-the-heart lyrics like “There’s so much space between us, baby, we’re already defeated.” This is the Adele that melts fans’ hearts, the one they've been waiting on for four long years.
Yet 25 is also an album that, in places, defies neat and simple categorization. Chalk at least some of this up to Adele’s more unlikely collaborators. You couldn’t pick a more perfect producer than Danger Mouse for River Lea, an organ-fueled sizzler in the vein of Florence and the Machine. And ‘70s piano-pop acolyte Tobias Jesso Jr.’s fingerprints are all over When We Were Young, a distant descendant of breezy hits by the Commodores or Carole King.
But 25’s exploratory vibe comes from within, too. There is an enchanting, ineffably European folk quality to Million Years Ago; it’s a simple song fans of Serge Gainsbourg or Lenoard Cohen will fall in love with. And swaying, lighter-waving blues-rock bawler Sweetest Devotion, written with longtime collaborator Paul Epworth, luxuriates somewhere in the space between Rent and the Sunset Strip.
And then there’s the album’s kookiest track, Send My Love (To Your New Lover), which in some ways resembles the oddball indie pop of artists like the Knife, Architecture In Helsinki and Miike Snow. (Ironically, this is the one song on 25 produced by Swedish pop whisperers Max Martin and Shellback, who could sneeze to a beat and watch it soar to No. 1.)
Speaking of Martin, let’s get back to those hits-in-waiting. When We Were Young will be a big, bring-the-house-down showstopper for as long as Adele dares to sing it. The gut-punching Remedy, co-written with and produced by OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, is next summer’s All Of Me or Thinking Out Loud, the wedding-waltz tearjerker you won’t be able to avoid.
And be forewarned: You’re going to hear a whole lot of Water Under the Bridge very, very soon. At four perfectly paced minutes, it might be the most obviously chart-friendly song Adele’s ever recorded, a dramatic, sweeping pop epic very much in the style of our time (see: Taylor Swift’s 1989 or Katy Perry’s Prism).
And, of course, we can’t forget Hello, that devastating clarion call that led so many people to pre-order 25 in the first place. That monster first single just missed the cutoff date for eligibility in next year’s Grammy Awards, but this is far and away your very early frontrunner for Song and Record of the Year in 2017.
Yeah, that’s right: 2017. Adele’s new album only came out today, yet it already sounds like the soundtrack to the next two years of your love life. You might as well plug in and press play today.
-- Jay Cridlin