Adele – 25  (2015)

adele 25Attempting a follow up to the most successful album of all time is hugely courageous, and the masterfully organized release of 25 (due tomorrow) is an erstwhile effort. It’s good, not great; a solid 7. Here’s why:

Adele has no equal when she comes to us naked in pain, and it would be wastefully desensitizing to listen to all those full-on singles from 21 at one sitting, like an opera of nothing but arias. 25 has but the one ‘big single’, Hello, and lacks its aria – that one unexpected moment that leaves us, and her, breathless and wondering what just happened. No Chasing Pavements from 19 or Someone Like You from 21 to bind singer and listener in a defining moment.

To her credit, Adele wanted to broaden her oeuvre, “to be quite acoustic and piano-led” and not make a big production. But that isn’t what emerged from the studio. She mostly starts with intimate intention but checks off into radio-friendly comfort zones that compromise the original phrasing.

But the post-21 hurdle has been cleared, and for 27 she could find a less considering producer who hears the Etta James and Edith Piaf in her, not the Katy Perry/Rebecca Lynn Howard.