"If we're going to keep doing this, we need to find a way to make some money," I told my bassist earlier today when he asked me about booking more shows with our band. He basically laughed in my face and told me not to quit my day job. I shot back, offended, telling him that people will pay us to play shows if we give them something worth paying for. "Supply and demand," I told him. He seemed to think my belief was naive, the alien belief that if someone is truly talented that their labor of love will eventually become a labor of love and of income. If there's any way to convince my bassist that I'm not completely delusional, it's Adele who will rest my case. Her latest 25 -- which is not streaming anywhere -- is proof that there is a desperate demand for exactly what 25 supplies: raw, true talent.
There's basically no way to get ahold of this record unless you're paying for it, and it's worth every penny. I don't even want this record for free; I want to pay for it. It's that good. Adele meticulously exposes herself in her most vulnerable moments, and the instrumentation is just as stripped down as her bare-all lyrics. Her songwriting has brilliance in its simplicity and beauty in the effortlessness that she seems to possess. These songs are but episodes in a series that is Adele, and each song tells a story from start to finish. I didn't think she'd be able to top her sophomore album 21 with such impressive singles like "Rolling in the Deep" or the heartbreaking "Someone Like You," but I was wrong. Adele is four years older in writing this album, and the antagonist is not the failed love we all were expecting, but it is time.
Unfortunately the themes that grew somewhat tiresome in 21 are still there, but they just don't feel as centralized to the record as they were. I might feel entirely different once the rest of the world caves in and buys this album, or the radio exhausts it as it never fails to do, but just a taste of 25 moved me more in a way that no other album this year has done. Adele became so heavily associated with heartbreak and sadness from her previous album, similar to Taylor Swift's association to boy-crazy desperation, that I planned on steering clear of this record entirely. If Adele didn't show some sort of thematic growth with this album, she'd be shying from her potential while wearing that lazy label around like a regretted tattoo.
She opens the album with a story about catching up with someone she once loved in "Hello," and it sets the tone for the entire album, where she is torn between the present and the past, all the while anticipating her future. The escaping time plants seeds of frustration and guilt throughout the record, especially while she sings "it's no secret that the both of us are running out of time," in "Hello." She feels anxiety and resentment about what she hasn't done, and curses herself because of it. Though this is true, self-pity just isn't the 27-year-old's style. She confesses to these regrets, actions and misactions, but she takes ownership over them. Following "Hello," is "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)" that was co-written by Max Martin. Yes, he is that Swedish mega producer who you probably won't be escaping for at least the next decade. This is the only absolute pop song on this record. Martin's simple seal is most audible at the chorus, but the wiser Adele is just as loud. The hook goes "Send my love to your new lover/ Treat her better/ We've gotta let go of all of our ghosts/ We both know we ain't kids no more," announcing an Adele who must keep moving, because she knows that time will.
The third song "I Miss You" is by far my favorite off the album, and definitely one of its most shining moments. It begins with spooky chants, heavy guitar, and drumming that's both tribal and kind of groovy. Although Adele is incomparable, this song takes the best elements of Florence and The Machine, Amy Winehouse, and classic southern rhythm and blues to create an overall incredible song.
Because the most powerful instrument in Adele's music is her voice, it just makes sense that she writes such defined narratives. The instrumentation is just a compliment when her voice is always in the spotlight. She uses the instrumentation to help her tell a story, and the story-like nature of her songs make them so personal and pungent. One of the most personal songs, "River Lea," is a reference to a river near an area where she grew up. Adele blames the water of the River Lea for her deceptive ways. She sings, "But it's in my roots, it's in my veins/ It's in my blood/ And I stain every heart that I use to heal the pain," another nostalgic, guilty narrative that is 25.
This is definitely Adele's best yet, and it's clear she's well aware of the masterpiece that's 25 since she's made it pretty much impossible to hear for free. It's no wonder 25 is the first album to sell over three million copies in just one week breaking a record that had previously been held by N*Sync...in the 90s. It's emotive, upfront, honest, and confrontational, and with Adele's voice, three million copies sold should only be the beginning for 25.