By Caroline Ackerman
After almost two years in the studio, Adele’s third album, “25,” was released on Nov. 20 through XL Recordings. The British songstress sold a record-breaking 4.49 million albums in the first two weeks of its release, signaling “25” as a mainstream success. “25” comes four years after Adele’s 2011 album, “21,” which featured hit songs “Rolling in the Deep,” “Rumour Has It” and “Set Fire to the Rain.”
A month prior to the album’s release was the release of the single “Hello,” which is also the first track on Adele’s new album. “Hello” took the world by storm and was accompanied by a heart-wrenching music video that now has 607 million views on YouTube.
The latest album by the European talent does not do much by way of progression, causing “25” to sound more like a sequel to “21” rather than a stand-alone album. This similarity could be due to the success “21” saw: The sophomore album won the 2012 Grammy for Best Album of the Year. Songs “Hello” and “When We Were Young” from “25” sound like B sides to “21,” yet many pop culture outlets are celebrating Adele’s new album. Rolling Stone even called it an “unparalleled success.”
In spite of all the applause, Adele’s latest album fails creatively. “25” does not sound any different from its predecessors, “19” and “21,” even following the same name and cover art pattern. Out of all 11 songs, “I Miss You” stands out the most. This track features a deviation from Adele’s typical ballad and houses more of a refreshingly upbeat tempo. However, “I Miss You” does carry through with the theme of heartbreak and despair, much like the rest of the album.
Even though the album follows Adele’s common thread of romantic heartbreak, Adele sings of home in the song “River Lea.” River Lea is a large river in London, where Adele was raised. While not necessarily about a person, “River Lea” is about the heartbreak of leaving home. “I grew up by the River Lea … Oh, I can’t go back but the reeds are growing out of my fingertips,” sings Adele.
The imagery in “River Lea” makes way for a commonly shared nostalgia, breaking away from the theme of heartbreak seen in “Love in the Dark” and “Sweetest Devotion.” While Adele’s new album tends to be about love, contrary to “21,” “25” shows Adele bouncing back from heartbreak rather than suffering. In “Water Under the Bridge,” Adele accepts sorrow by singing, “If you’re going to let me down, let me down gently.”
Adele’s new album definitely puts her back in the spotlight, but does nothing to differentiate her from any other mainstream pop artist — artists like Lana Del Rey and Florence + the Machine share so many commonalities with Adele. With plenty of unique talent, it seems almost tragic that Adele maintains the same cookie-cutter presence as before. The album is beautifully bland: an 11-tracked masterpiece that can possibly do nothing more than satisfy those who were already a fan of Adele.
Caroline Ackerman can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @TheSagebrush.