Release Date: February 22, 2011
Reviewed by Chris Johnston

This album came way out of left field. To be honest, I hadn’t heard much from Adele before taking the time to listen to her most recent effort, 21. To say that I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement. This woman has got some serious soul. It’s not too often I listen to a “contemporary” artist expecting much out of the music, strictly because there hasn’t been that much out there that has been all that impressive lately. This is certainly an exception to that statement. This album grooves pretty hard.

Usually, the opening track of a record is what I look forward to most. It sets the tone for the album. The opener is what I look for to get me interested in the record. 21’s opener, “Don’t You Remember” isn’t a very strong track, however. It’s slow to start out and is just kind of a building, methodical groove. But what the song lacks musically, Adele makes up for with her impeccable vocal work. Her epic presence is very apparent from the get go. But as I listened deeper into the LP, I realized that the opener was just kind of a flood-gate that was holding back the onslaught of soul I was about to be consumed by. The following 10 tracks are an opus of sorts, with only one minor flaw. She attempts a cover of The Cure’s, “Love Song.” The result is lack luster at best (unfortunately, because I love that song, no pun intended). It’s pretty much just a bossa nova rendition of the original, and maintains the same “coffee-shop” theme throughout. However, every other track boasts her ever-smooth and fluid songwriting. Think “Duffy meets Norah Jones” with more tolerable vocal tones. Where Duffy’s vocals are on the higher-pitched side and Norah Jones has a deeper, sultry voice, Adele meets them in the middle of the road with her smokey, sexy tones. It’s quite easy to see why she’s a Grammy-nominated artist.

All-in-all, this Long-Play effort is very impressive. Tracks like “Set Fire To The Rain” really showcase the pipes on this chick. And she knows her limits. She manages to push the envelope on the kind of smooth jams she plays just far enough to be relevant without being too wacky and confusing. I’m a huge fan of throwback Motown-esque music, and 21 is that and so much more. Most of the lyrical content has a relationship theme, especially the track “Rumour Has It” that tells the story of a love triangle. But don’t let that fool you into thinking the music is redundant, because it’s near perfect for what it aims to be.  It’s nice to find a record that sticks to its identity all the way through as well as 21 does. Well done, Adele. Well done.

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