Image: Simon Emmett.
The wait is finally over, global superstar Adele is back! The English singer-songwriter has unveiled her hotly-anticipated fourth studio album, 30, the first full-length body of work since 2015’s 25. Capturing the intensity and turmoil of her publicised marriage and divorce, the singer looks inward and navigates her new way of life and the residual complex emotions that follow the end of a longterm relationship.
Opening with the lyric “I'll be taking flowers to the cemetery of my heart”, Adele sets the scene for the heartbreaking collection of songs that is to follow. The albums opener Strangers By Nature brings soulful and vibrant melodies that could rival Judy Garland and Billie Holiday. Working with Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson, beautiful cadences and harmonies swell into an Alice In Wonderland-esque bridge. As she closes the chapter on one relationship, Adele ends the song stating “alright, I’m ready” before heading in to the albums lead single, Easy On Me. Conceptually the song navigates the breakdown of a relationship, and the decision to walk away from your partner when it seems like the shared love is no longer salvageable. The track brings the singers trademark big-choruses, as her vocals reach new heights, before taking a more demure approach to My Little Love. With subtle threads of R&B within a 70’s groove soundscape, the song serves as an ode to the singers young son and navigates her own mental state. Built atop slinky piano lines, lush strings hypnotic beats, Adele implements the use of voice memos featuring conversations between the singer and her child, discussing her own emotions with a heartbreaking solo voice note where she discusses her loneliness.
Cry Your Heart Out, will have you grooving along as the singer brings a modern twist to jazzy sounds, before she searches for new love under the spotlight of fame on the Max Martin and Shellback produced Oh My God. The coupling of these two tracks solidifies a more diverse record from the singer when compared to its predecessors, pushing the boundaries of her sound and embracing experimentation. The guitar led Can I Get It gives moments of Rolling In The Deep whilst exploring a casual relationship, built upon a driving beat and whistling melodies that will be ringing in your head for the remainder of the day. The gospel infused I Drink Wine is a standout moment on the album, channeling Elton John and Bernie Taupin with confessional and introspective lyricism built upon moving piano melodies. Adele’s raw and emotive vocals are at their most vulnerable here, as she attempts to shed her ego and stops “tryin' to be somebody else”, before ruminating on her regrets in spoken word.
The Erroll Garner-sampling All Night Parking is a twinkling interlude that captures the joy of falling for someone new and beginning a blossoming relationship. The singer enlists North-London producer Inflo of the English band Sault on the back end of the record, with Woman Like Me immediately juxtaposing All Night Parking through critiquing an ex-lover whose actions and lack of effort soured the relationship. The singers sultry vocals bubble atop acoustic-led sonics as she finds her own confidence and acknowledges her own self-worth, while serving as the albums biggest diss track. Adele returns to her emotional ballad roots on Hold On, refraining from a belting performance to allow moments of intimacy as she navigates her own-self loathing. Building to a massive gospel crescendo, the singers signature booming vocals take over as she transitions to a place of defiance and acceptance.
Another standout moment is the piano ballad, To Be Loved. Adele reflects on her marriage, owning the part she played and acknowledges her own want to be loved and the impact of that mindset. Sparse piano accompanies the singers captivating vocals and cements itself as one of the singers greatest songs through its emotional and heartbreaking lyricism and powerful performance. 30 comes to an end with Love Is A Game, bringing the same cadences and harmonies we were introduced to on the records opener. Laced with whimsical notes, the track serves as the ultimate closer, coming in at just under seven minutes of string-swirling, jazzy sonics that are intricately woven together to produce a cinematic ending.
Delving deeper into her treasure trove of emotions, Adele once again delivers a complex examination of love and heartbreak, and the lingering effects of a relationships demise. On 30, we meet new sides of the singer as she explores motherhood, dating in modern times and independence. Building upon her sonic palette, the singer pushes up against the confines of her pop-soul history, introducing more overt hints of jazz and soul, with subtle moments of 70’s inspired R&B. There is a journey throughout 30. The album closes as Adele sings, “I love me now, like I love him”, reaching a new sense of self-worth and appreciation, with 30 serving as a documentation from heartbreak and loneliness, to happier days on the horizon.
30 is out now! Watch Adele's two-hour concert special One Night Only, this Sunday at 7pm AEST on Channel Seven and 7Plus on Sunday, alongside an interview with Oprah Winfrey.