When English singer Adele dropped her first album 19 back in 2008, the title reflected her age at the time. The album took off almost immediately, gaining her international acclaim for her unique voice and sharp songwriting. The single “Chasing Pavements” became a huge hit and the album ultimately scored Adele the Grammy for Best New Artist. That’s a lot for a young woman to go through, which is why her new album 21 is an even more complex, deeper, darker affair. In fact, she recently told MTV News’ James Montgomery that the creation of 21 was heartbreaking in more ways than one.
But now that 21 is out (it hit store shelves today), is it as universally loved as her previous effort was? Based on the opinions of the critics, the answer appears to be yes. “Though her latest, 21, features a slick retinue of current Top 40 producers — the same men helming hits for the likes of Beyoncé, Linkin Park and Taio Cruz — the vibe is unabashedly analog,” wrote Entertainment Weekly critic Leah Greenblatt. “At times, Adele’s precocious talent feels prematurely aged by her material, and moments of levity are hard to find. But at its best, 21 is that rarest pop commodity: timeless.”
Margaret Wappler of the Los Angeles Times was equally as excited for the accomplishments of 21 — and looked forward to whatever Adele would be up to next (just as long as her collaborators are on board too). “Overall, 21 shows that Adele, now 22, is towering in the same landscape where some of her contemporaries, beehived or not, have lost all their bearings,” she wrote. “Who knows what damage she’ll exact for 30, but let’s hope [producer Paul] Epworth is along for the ride.”
“Now that she’s legal — 21 refers to her age when she wrote these songs — Adele has toughened her tone, trimmed the jazz frippery and sounds ready for a pub fight,” wrote critic Will Hermes for Rolling Stone. Though he gave the album three-and-a-half stars, he felt that Adele could do a better job striking a balance between the two sides of her personality. “The woman is mutable, sometimes to a fault: Her cover of the Cure’s ’Lovesong’ is a nice idea lost in bossa nova fluff,” he wrote. “But when the grooves are fierce, Adele gives as good as she gets.”
But Barry Walters of Spin liked Adele’s evolution just fine. “Though the undeniable lament ’Chasing Pavements’ earned a 2009 Grammy, 19 was bogged down by too many folky guitar ballads. Those have vanished; ditto Adkins’ Tottenham accent,” he wrote. “Instead, she wails harder and writes bolder, piling on the dramatic production flourishes to suggest a lover’s apocalypse.”
What do you think of Adele’s new album? Let us know in the comments!