Review Summary: 25's a watered-down version of 21, offering nothing by way of progression and, at times, regresses to dull areas where 21 never ventured.
For everything that happened to Adele in all of her years away - she birthed a baby, which many mothers consider their greatest achievement; she committed long-term to her baby's father; and she aged without public scrutiny, allowing her to peacefully reflect on her music and stardom - Adele's newest offering has almost nothing to show for it. It has neither 19
's innocent charm, nor 21
's intensity and strength through heartbreak. Absence of these qualities didn't necessarily mean 25
would assume a position below Adele's normal standard. In fact, all new things considered, musical shifts and vision switches were expected; my own expectation being that insightful anthems, which might reflect her transformed self, would redeem her brokenhearted ballads of prior. Instead, 25
's a watered-down version of 21
, offering nothing by way of progression and, at times, regresses to dull areas where 21
The topics Adele's singing about on 25
seem identical to 21
, but now her messages feel either diluted or undefined - tragic silhouettes of their former counterparts. She is still singing to some ex-boyfriend who wronged her, “Send My Love,” and remembering times long past, “When We Were Young” and “Million Years Ago.” Yet, 25
's totally absent of 21
's power and punch. Now, she is halfhearted instead of brokenhearted; she is aching, but only barely
. In my opinion, if anyone wants to sing about heartbreak, they need real
passion, sadness, anger, whatever. There's nothing rousing about someone who is perpetually wallowing in long-ago burns that also healed ages ago. 25
's a burn that is ready to recover, but resists, still trying to transform into two flaming torches, but instead of crashing into all of Adele's ex-boyfriends' windows, they fall short, tumbling into murky puddles below, extinguishing all former heat. That being said, if Adele is going to tell me who she wants and misses so much, she at least needs stories worth telling, and 25
misses that mark.
Apart from subject matter, Adele offers her signature booming choruses supplemented by understated instrumentation. She, however, has diversified a bit, replacing piano-driven melodies with refreshing new instrumental variation that energizes a mostly copycat album. She channels Florence and the Machine in fast-moving, synthed-up “Water Under the Bridge” and organ-based, theatrical “River Lea,” which features a visual, multi-layered and percussion-heavy chorus. In addition, bass and drum seem mixed higher, especially pronounced on "I Miss You.” Alongside loud drum and bass, Adele's vocals, characteristically devoid of any sort of delicacy, flourish in every song. Even "Hello," which has a simple, almost bland instrumental, is still enormous, which just reaffirms Adele's sheer vocal strength, as well as an ever-clearer reality that Adele is all lungs and not much beyond that.
supports that enjoying Adele follows enjoying her vocal timber. Well-structured songs with good production only help so much. She fails to show growth in nearly every aspect of this album whether it is songwriting or vocal variation even though she's had plenty of new experiences to help her construct a great album rather than 25
, which has garnered tremendous success by being quality
- quality that is perhaps too often associated with her.