Album Review: 30 // Adele

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Adele’s long-anticipated fourth album, 30, has finally dropped. In 12 soul-destroying tracks, she tells the story of her divorce from ex-husband Simon Konecki, and the process of rebuilding in the public eye.

The North London-born superstar’s latest album is more intimate than ever before – voice notes, recordings of her son, and vulnerable lyrics populate the tracklist. It is candid, sophisticated, and brutally honest. The sound is different too. Cinematic strings, organs and jazz chords accompany Adele’s voice, which is simultaneously more mature and more exposed than in previous albums. 19, 21, and 25 were suffused with deep pain, difficult memories, and life after heartbreak. 30 takes this a step further. The whole project feels like we’re listening in on a therapy session, or a chat with a very close friend. We are given a seat at the table, poured a glass of wine, and invited to listen to the intimate details of her personal life.

The album’s opening track, ‘Strangers by Nature’, sounds like it belongs in a Disney film. Strings and melodica are employed to enchanting effect, with Adele’s voice soaring above. The track is a precursor to the rest of the album, introducing themes of heartbreak and hope.

The lead single for the album, ‘Easy On Me’ is the most traditionally ‘Adele’ sounding track on 30. Her voice rises above a piano melody, with stunning vocal runs in the chorus. The song speaks of Adele’s vulnerability and feelings of naivety, as well as compromising herself for her relationship. The lyric, “I know there is hope in these waters/But I can’t bring myself to swim” – encapsulates the entire message of the album, one of trying to hope but being afraid to be hurt again. 

When we reach ‘My Little Love’, we get even more of a sense of this duality between hope and fear. In this song, Adele sings to her son about how much she loves him and wants him to feel okay, even after his parent’s divorce. The bittersweet voice recordings of conversations between mother and son are interspersed throughout, giving the listener a sense of being intimately involved in Adele’s life. At the end of the track, we get a voice note from Adele, laced with vulnerability, talking about her anxiety, paranoia, and loneliness. Adele hasn’t just handed us a record populated with heartbreak. There is hope in the water. ‘Can I Get It’ feels tonally different from the heart-wrenching tracks on 30. It is a hook-up song, written for the TikTok generation, reminiscent of Doja Cat in the best way possible. It’s incredibly cool and sexy and definitely one for a night out.

Soulful and groovy, ‘Love is a Game’, is the perfect closer to the album, rounding things off with a glorious blend of swelling strings. To me, it feels like the end credits track of an early-2000s rom-com. Despite talking about the pain of love, it looks forward to new beginnings and the forging of new relationships and memories. It rounds the album off by distilling the essence of 30 – “I can love again/I love me now like I loved him”, sings an empowered Adele. 

Amongst Adele’s trademark weepy piano ballads and soaring vocals, there is an important message – even when everything has been ripped away from you, there is still hope. In an era defined by a pandemic that took so much away from so many people, it’s exactly what we need to hear. 

Words by Caitlin Barr


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