She’s done it—she’s returned after a three-year hiatus, broken records in record time, and made sepia tones cool again. Yes, the prodigal daughter of the music industry has come back to us: Adele has released a new album.
Critics hailed this album a smash success weeks before it was even released, which sent me, a patiently waiting Adele follower, into spirals of paranoia that it would not live up to expectations. Fear not, listeners; 25 is eleven beautiful songs of love, heartbreak, and powerhouse vocals. In all of my critical expertise, I hereby offer my opinion of Adele’s latest (who am I kidding, I really just wanted an excuse to listen to it three times in a row). Check out my track-by-track review and decide its success for yourself.
Hello: It’s gorgeous, soaring, heartbreaking—and I’m going to be sick of it in a month. I’m already a little sick of it, to be honest. But as Adele’s first new release since “Skyfall” in 2012, its overplayed-ness is hardly unexpected. 7.5/10
Send My Love (To Your New Lover): The backtrack sounds like almost like a new-wave Norah Jones, plucky and simple. Then as soon as the vocals hit, it’s unmistakably Adele. This isn’t just a stick-it-to-him anthem for the cheated, but brighter and more mature (“We’ve got to let go of all of our ghosts / We both know we ain’t kids no more”). So it really does come across as one of the happier tracks Adele has put out, if not more than a little sassy. 8/10
I Miss You: It starts with an almost tribal drum loop and Adele’s beautiful low range, but I oddly lose interest once she hits the chorus. The backup vocals are kind of grating at times, although in the bridge there’s a subtle-but-awesome deep-voice autotune that you could miss if you’re not listening for it. This one is a potential skip, but certainly doesn’t take away from the album. 7/10
When We Were Young: If American Idol were still a thing, this would be the most-sung audition song. But nobody does it live like the woman herself. Even recorded, this is my favorite track; it’s Adele in a nutshell. 11/10
Remedy: This is Adele doing what Adele does best: stripped-back piano and powerhouse vocals. Reminiscent of “Turning Tables” from 21 (understandably, since both were produced by Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic), but the cool part is that here, she sings not of her own heartbreak, but of all the ways in which she helped her loved one through heartbreak. That’s a beautiful shift, making this song much more uplifting than its surface seems. 9/10
Water Under the Bridge: If this isn’t the next radio single, then the airwaves missed the boat. It reminds me almost of something Ellie Goulding would release; the opening notes recall the muted electronics of “Love Me Like You Do.” This is a windows-down, volume-up track that, if my predictions are correct, will verge on overplayed in a few months. 8.5/10
River Lea: Kind of opposite “I Miss You,” the first few lines don’t hold much of interest—but as soon as she hits the chorus, I’m sold. There’s a notable balance between big soaring choruses, two-voice verses, and Adele on her own, rocking that glowing lower range. Best line: “Consider this my apology, I know it’s years in advance / But I’d rather say it now in case I never get the chance.” 8/10
Love in the Dark: There’s nothing particularly memorable about this one, nothing that screams 25 as part of its identity. It’s a nice ballad, but for me didn’t elicit much emotion. Maybe I need a breakup? 6.5/10
Million Years Ago: My least favorite on the album. It felt self-indulgent in Adele’s nostalgia and reflections on days gone by, and overall just boring; there was no “moment,” nothing to draw it as close to my heart as it may be to hers. Again, maybe I just need to age a little to get it. 5/10
All I Ask: Another piano power ballad! Huzzah! But honestly, I like this one quite a bit. It’s pretty generic as themes and tunes go—“If this is my last night with you / Hold me like I’m more than just a friend,” etc. etc. And there’s a kitschy little key change towards the end. Overall, though, it’s a solid enough love song to earn a staple place in her catalogue. 7.5/10
Sweetest Devotion: Oh, I love this one. It’s Adele’s tribute to motherhood, and this is one case in which you don’t need to be living her life to get it—I’m not a mother, but this song made me love everyone I’ve ever known. It’s a bit more polished and poppy than some of her other tracks, although her voice soars over any instrumental. 9/10
If you’re just looking to dabble in 25, I recommend “When We Were Young,” “Remedy,” and “Water Under the Bridge.” But if you’ve missed this queen of the music scene as much as I have, then splurge $10 on the new album (available only for purchase, as Adele has restricted it from streaming sites such as Spotify and Apple Music). It’s going to make serious waves in the industry as 2015 comes to a close.