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Adele: 25

3 March 2017 Music

Adele: 25

Photograph courtesy of Remote Control Records

Adele’s third studio album, 25, is concerned with the passage of time, reflecting on the many lessons and advantages that can come with its passing.

With a thoughtful and reflective attitude, 25 argues that although we can still be haunted by our past – our losses and heartaches – we still must strive for our own self-understanding.

Ever since Adele catapulted to superstardom in 2011 with her album 21 (after strong success with her debut 19), her grief, as well as her triumph, has become ours. 

Now, after controversially winning the Grammy Award for Album of the Year – beating out Beyoncé for her artful and political visual album, Lemonade – ahead of her Australian tour, the album has renewed scrutiny. And it holds up.

25 acts as the third (and possibly last) chapter in Adele’s coming-of-age story, both as an artist and as a young woman. Her albums have all mirrored key transformative moments of her life and this most recent iteration is a narrative conclusion to her very public life story.

Charting universal themes of love and grief, 25’s enormous popularity is unsurprising – many of us have identified with Adele’s story of pain and self-doubt maturing into empowerment and self-understanding. For the past six years, Adele’s music has acted as a much-needed antidote to our mostly artificial pop music landscape, encouraging us to probe our emotional worlds instead of merely dancing to the beat.

Even though the album is named after what most would deem a very young age, 25 is mature and methodical, less introspective and confessional than her previous work. Although it still carries nostalgia and pining – including aching ballads like ‘I Miss You’ and ‘When We Were Young’ – these songs now carry an emotional distance indicative of the singer’s ability to not let her entanglements wound as greatly as they might have once before.

Adele now encourages resilience and thoughtfulness in her listeners: ‘Send My Love (To Your New Lover)’ is poppy and invigorating, seeing Adele dictate an ex-relationship on her own terms; ‘When We Were Young’ is a tender exercise in nostalgia, but without the heavy emotional baggage; and breakout single ‘Hello’ (whose music video became the fastest to break 1 billion views on YouTube) is a tentative greeting, referring not only to Adele’s absence from the music world but how she is now an agent of change in her own life.

While some songs feel like Adele is attempting to offer a previous iteration of herself (the lost love and nostalgia), there is a strong underlying self-awareness throughout that firmly counters this.

Like 21, Adele’s 25 offers such a real and personal story that it demands to be heard. And people listened.

by Nathan Smith (@nathansmithr)

This review first appeared in Ed#531 of The Big Issue. For more reviews of the latest music, books, films and TV shows, grab a copy from your vendor today!

Nathan Smith