Review Summary: 30. So much more than 25.
For Adele, whose life outside of music has become as much an integral feature as the soaring pipes that gave her fame, fans could’ve very well seen 30
coming a way off. This is because 30
is a divorce record; unapologetic and raw to the tune of what could possibly be Adele’s greatest studio performance to date. What is to be questioned however is where exactly does 30
stack within Adele’s lengthening catalogue? While it’s no secret that the British-born songstress has taken inspiration from her relationship woes over the years, with tracks from both 25
featuring a few shots at past lovers and the like, 30
however is a complete outlet and the topic of Adele’s divorce swallows the new record almost completely. This is the new record’s strength and weakness; balancing openness with vulnerability, honesty with optimism. By her own admission, 30
isn’t a divorce album, Adele sticking instead to motifs of rediscovery. Personally, I’m most certainly convinced that it’s both.
That’s not to say that Adele has found the rainbows through the rain clouds that must hamper almost every waking day in England. Rather 30
tackles big feelings
head-on, cringe and all. Honesty becomes a focal point even as Adele belts out some big new tunes. “Strangers By Nature” immediately sets the tone for where the rest of the album’s hour would take its listeners. Adele gently caresses her opening lines and lyrics such as “I’ll be taking flowers to the cemetery of my heart”, giving no indication that there’s a moment of empowerment to come. The lead single, “Easy On Me” continues in theme, sorry-for-yourself vibes soar infectious hooks and masterful vocal control. For Adele has that in spades. Naturally the track itself boasts Adele’s huge range, deliberately drawing out the hook in the chorus for maximum effect
, but there’s growth here and 30
sees better performances than what’s come before it. With this in mind it’s to be expected: Adele’s vocal prowess is
“My Little Love”, is seemingly sung to Adele’s son Angelo while confessing her faults. Lyrically it’s clear that Adele’s life has shifted (her son and self being the more prominent beneficiaries of her divorce), but where 25
leaned heavily into pop fuelled ballads 30
is a bold, ambitious stroke that brings together Adele’s natural, undeniable talents into the moments of pure frankness where she discusses her “big feelings”, mentioning confusion and lack of direction. It’s something this album is a contrast to, because even as Adele’s personal life goes through an upheaval—30
is processed, focused and clear in its heading. These candid recordings with Angelo are just the start of the ‘uncomfortable’ listening experiences peppered throughout the record, more so when Adele lays out a more vulnerable state of mind through late track audio clips a la “I Drink Wine”. Adele confesses to feeling “alone” and hung-over, implications for professional help just waiting in the wings. More poignant moments are found in the lyricism: “Why am I obsessing about the things I can't control? Why am I seeking approval from people I don't even know?” Big feelings and even bigger questions.
Even as we circle back a few tracks, 30
isn’t a complete dread and despair album. Hidden amongst the woe and apologetic moods are Rn’B style pop hits like “Oh My God” which stride into being like splashes of neon in a dark alley. Likewise the piano touches found during “To Be Loved” are sure to set some hearts alight and despite Adele’s all-encompassing, dominant vocal display the track should be considered 30
’s centrepoint. Adele’s lyrics take on a life of their own; vibrato cutting through the hammer of keys with abandon. It might be the highlight the record needs, it’s just held back by the sadness around it, shimmering under the weight of the album’s larger motifs.
might need a bit of unloading and a casual listener should be forgiven for not investing in Adele’s marriage woes and as such, the candid audio clips where Adele tries explaining things will perhaps be an unwelcome addition to the formula. That aside, there’s a lot one could take away from Adele’s newest record. 30
might not be a true divorce album, lacking the fire and blame game attitudes that we could assume from a modern pop record—it is however a frank, candid unloading from a person experiencing some real
feelings. Something to which we can relate to, at least in part. 30
might not have been the cleanest of breakups, but it more than translates in lyrical form. Maybe in a few years we’ll be hearing “Hello (from the other side) Part 2.”