Love is hard, thus artists seem to find it easy to write about. It’s much harder for them to do the opposite: pull a 180 and sing about accepting how relationships end.
British soul singer Adele does just that with her new album, “21,” released Feb. 22.
The record represents a maturity of both singer and sound for Adele, who began her career with 2008’s “19.” That album circled around the growth of love, and two years later, “21” offers an older, wiser response, on how relationships can fall apart — or, if you’re lucky, not.
The album is a throwback to a ’60s Etta James album, with the hints of modern alternative influences. It is a jazz clubber’s dream album, with a mix of slow, bluesy songs and a handful of upbeat powerhouse songs.
The first track on the album, “Rolling in the Deep,” is one of the latter. Adele’s first single off the album, the song is a catchy tune with one passionate line that sets the tone for the rest of “21” letting audiences know what Adele has in store — “Don’t underestimate the things that I will do.”
From there, the album varies with different songs taking different approaches. Some songs are filled with nothing but hatred over how a relationship has ended, such as “Turning Tables” and “Take It All.” Even though Adele pinpoints the problem as having come from her significant other “walking away” and having “destroyed my heart,” she can’t help but reflect on the good times they had.
In others, like “Don’t You Remember,” she wonders instead if her ex can still remember those happier times. She asks, “When was the last time you thought of me?/ Or have you completely erased me from your memories?” The song stands out as a shift in sound from jazz to country, illustrating Adele’s ability to excel in genres that aren’t explicitly her home turf.
A battle to develop the strength needed to move on from a former relationship is highlighted in “Someone Like You.” The second single released from “21,” the song is a soul-crushing masterpiece of the sort we’ve grown accustomed to from Adele.
Adele does realize playing the blame game isn’t a one way street, and “I’ll Be Waiting” offers a guilt-stricken, poetic apology. Singing, “Please forgive me for my sins/ Yes, I swam dirty waters,” Adele believes she’s ready to be the perfect girlfriend even if her significant other has moved on.
But don’t feel too bad for Adele. There’s also songs like “One and Only,” meant to portray the feeling of a first kiss, where things are in slow motion and it seems nothing can go wrong. The song is paced in a dreamy tempo, with Adele singing “Lose yourself in time / At the mention of my name.”
And for those who pick up the album via iTunes, a bonus closing song, “I Found a Boy,” ends the album on a happy note that speaks for itself.
The mix of tones gives the album a sense of equilibrium, with the songs devoted to giving the big middle finger to your ex evened out by a few songs admitting fault, leaving her with hope that a new relationship will develop from the rubble left over from her past.
“21” brings the same loved sound that Adele is known for but only adds to the quality of music she can produce. Though the storyline of the album details struggles to come out on top, there’s no doubt the album is a winner.