Review Summary: British female, soul-influenced singer (let the endless comparisons begin) delivers a solid and enjoyable first album, complete with Ronson produced single.1 of 3 thought this review was well written
I'll start by answering the question you're probably asking: no, Adele is not an Amy Winehouse copy-cat. In fact, she is quite different from Amy Winehouse. That's not to say that there isn't a large list of obvious similarities (ex. Mark Ronson produced "Cold Shoulder"), merely that Adele is not another Duffy.
The album itself is a mix between modestly arranged "solo" songs and elaborate full-band collaborations with Eg White. The opener, "Daydreamer", is one such "solo" song. Consisting of only guitar and vocals, the song is a stunner, mostly thanks to Adele's incredible pipes. Simple, but effective is the formula here. Yet, the song has an unnatural amount of substance; the shock factor fails to diminish after repeated listens. Though it feels all so familiar, there are enough twists to make it considerably unique. This is the same case for most of the other "solo" songs on the record, primarily "Best for Last", "Crazy for You" and "First Love". These songs also give Adele ample room to show off her stunning vocal ability, with very effective results.
Despite this, the songs that feature Eg White are the standouts here. On these tracks, Eg White writes all the music and arrangements, while Adele takes care of the vocal melodies and words. The first single from the record, "Chasing Pavements", is an excellent example. The music is elaborate, almost over-the-top, with a full band and strings galore. The subtle and soft verses are juxtaposed against the huge chorus, which Adele belts out in appropriate desperation, trying to not drown in the wave of violins. This is unabashed pop writing at its finest. Most of the other Eg White collaborations follow suite and are easily the best tracks on the record ("Cold Shoulder" and "Melt My Heart to Stone", along with "Chasing Pavements", are the best of the Eg White selections). It is within the Eg White arrangements that the soul-influence is most apparent: there is a distinct '60s R&B ballad feel to both "Right as Rain" and "Melt My Heart to Stone". Adele ranks Etta James as one of her major influences. This is most apparent on these tracks, as she delivers with all the soul she can muster. Interestingly, Adele also manages to perform a decent cover of Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love". Though there is nothing unique about this (it has been covered to death), it does show a broader range of influences then most pop singer-songwriters.
The last three tracks on the album leave a sort of "odds and ends" impression. They attempt genre bending on an album that should stick solely to pop. The three tracks, "My Same", "Tired" and "Hometown Glory", are not the worst tracks on the album (in fact, I happen to particularly enjoy "Tired" and "Hometown Glory" was one of the album's singles); the problem is that they try to show musical range too late in the record. In particular, "Hometown Glory" is a bad ending to such an elaborate album, with melancholy piano and string arrangements whining in predictable patterns. "Tired" and "My Same" feel very out of place, though they can be enjoyable on there own. Yet, it is a first album and such missteps can be excused as over enthusiasm and uncertainty. If there is one positive to the inclusion of these tracks, they show that Adele is not a one sided artist and that she is willing to (and can properly) write and perform in other genres. This should lead to an interesting second album.
In conclusion, Adele has managed to offer up a pop record with a surprisingly significant amount of substance. She's no Amy Winehouse, and she's not trying to be either. I would suggest careful listening before categorizing her; you might be surprised.