25 review by Adele

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  • Released: Nov 20, 2015
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 10
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 5.6 (110 votes)
Adele: 25
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Sound — 9
Adele is the best-selling artist of the decade. While her music is not the most complex, it is soulful, almost beyond belief. From a respect standpoint, Adele crushes the modern day stereotype of pop singers. She isn't where she is because of her looks, dance moves, or off-stage antics. Her voice is amazing, no auto-tune needed. To top it off, she writes all her own material and doesn't saturate her music with the electronic beats and samples that are so prevalent in pop music today. If Taylor Swift captures the hearts of thirteen-year-old girls, the more mature Adele captures the hearts of the rest of us. Accordingly, the first single from this album, "Hello," broke sales records as did the album, which just managed the incredible feat of selling over 4.3 million copies in the UK after just one week.

So does this album live up to the hype? Is there anything that we as guitarists can take from it? The answer is yes to both questions. The only thing Adele didn't do with this album is take a progressive turn. Her song/chord structures are predictable and the music overall is not different in the slightest from her previous work. Nevertheless, Adele possesses an incredible songwriting acumen that is in full force on this album. She has this indescribable ability that great songwriters have to write an album full of songs that are empirically similar, yet still sound so different. This is the first album in a long time where I have been able to memorize the vocal melody to every song after two or three listens. And despite the similar music across the album, I never feel bored. Even the continuous melancholy of the album never gets old. Sure, this wouldn't be an album to listen to in any life situation, but what it does, it does better than anyone else does.

We as guitarists can do well to pay attention and learn what we can from the superb songwriting. For example, I realized that Adele makes large dynamic leaps between verses and choruses. The instrumentation always follows her voice to emphasize the contrast. I think that we can learn to do the same thing, to not play a whole song at one intensity, but rather to highlight highs and lows. Her voice also doesn't always hit the notes perfectly. Yet it still sounds great because when Adele ventures away from what is expected of her, she does it with a purpose that results in a noticeable effect. While it might seem like an odd lesson, I think we can learn to plan our mistakes, so to speak.

As my previous words would lead you to believe, I think that Adele has made all the right decisions with this album. Most of these decisions deal with her voice, how to cradle it, and how to make it the main focus. To this end, Adele keeps it simple with the instrumentation. Rarely more than two or three instruments play at once. Their parts stay contained, never venturing into any sort of range that would distract attention from Adele's vocals. Electronic instruments/sampling machines are kept to a manageable minimum. Any sound on the album aside from Adele's voice is there to texture the vocals, to work the dynamics so that the vocal movements are accentuated. The unfortunate thing is that, in my opinion, none of the songs reach the magnificence of "Rolling in the Deep" because they don't approach the equal vocal/instrumental collaboration that characterizes that song.

Lyrics — 10
There is a reason that every aspect of the music is set up to highlight the vocals; Adele has arguably the best voice of the 21st century. Her voice is what allows her to be successful even though she doesn't conform to the modern ideal of a pop singer. Her voice is, above all else, why her last album sold as well as it did and stayed on the Billboard 200 chart for many years (I don't know if it ever came off). When Adele announced that she had underwent surgery on her vocal chords, some wondered if her voice would keep the same character that had made it the voice of a generation.

Fortunately, her voice is as strong as ever; you wouldn't even know she had the surgery. Her enormous range is on full display and she really shows how to inject emotion into her words. Adele continues to show that she is one of the few vocalists in the world that can move a person to tears without music to accompany her (though it certainly helps).

Adele's voice is so uniquely powerful that she could probably be successful regardless of her lyrics. But, it just so happens that her lyrics are also pretty good as well. Her lyrical topics almost all have to do with romantic relationships, usually with a negative connotation. Adele does not necessarily write about situations in unique ways, but she has this ability to make her words come across as powerful as her voice does. Again, the music might not be complex or unique. The lyrics might not be complex or unique. But Adele's ability to mesh the two together is unique.

Here is a simple and smooth lyrical example from "Water Under the Bridge":

"If you're not the one for me
Then I'll come back
And bring you to your knees.
If you're not the one for me
Why do I hate the idea of being free?

And if I'm not the one for you
You've gotta stop holding me the way you do.
Why if I'm not the one for you?
Why have we been through what we have been through?

If you're gonna let me down, let me down gently
Don't pretend that you don't want me
Our love ain't water under the bridge"

Overall Impression — 8
This is another outstanding album from Adele. She knows what works and she sticks to it throughout the album. With her voice still as powerful as it is, there is no reason for her to stop. That being said, I don't think that this album is as good as her last album, "21," because there is not as much synergy between the vocals and the music. Still, this album is only worse by Adele's standards, which still makes it the best pop album of the year. The best song is the one all over the radio, "Hello." Other than that, two standout tracks are "River Lea" and "When We Were Young." Really though, this album is filled with great songs. If nothing else, there is something to be said for how Adele is performing many different songs from the album on late night television appearances instead of just the lead single.

80 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Mind_Reader7
    When I first heard "Hello", I Was blown away by the chorus. It's so big/epic sounding, whilst still being simple music. The production they've used allover her vocals is absolutely outstanding. Not my cup of tea musically, but it's nice on the ears to hear something semi-organic opposed to the highly processed vocals all over the radio.
    Jamie_W
    Refreshing to see someone who can appreciate musical quality in a genre that isn't their thing. Good work sir, those responsible for the 5.4 User rating take note!
    thenextkirk92
    User Rating: 4.7 Come on now, appreciate a talented singer once in a while.
    Jcsb1993
    There's no denying Adele's skill, but I wouldn't give this album more than a 6. Lyrically this is the work of a typical "broken-hearted" 20-something, and the song structure is that of any uninspired pop songwriter. She's getting so much praise for her varied dynamics, but what about a soft, somber verse followed by a big, loud chorus is any different from anything else you'd hear on the radio? Sure, you could write me off as a buttmad metal fan that doesn't "get it," but this album is nothing more than a fantastic vocalist with limitless possibilities pigeon-holing herself in the shitstorm that is modern pop.
    oliwilton
    I've only heard Hello on the radio, and I thought it was bloody dreadful.
    Mind_Reader7
    It sounds poo on the radio, because of the 128kbps stream quality. Give it a listen through some nice headphones. It's not a masterpiece of a song, but it is just a really nice sounding recording, followed with some beautiful production. For me, it's just a refreshing taste of mainstream production.
    oliwilton
    It's not even the production, I just think it's a bad song.
    Mind_Reader7
    Simple>bad
    oliwilton
    Uninteresting, whingey and boring > simple.
    Mind_Reader7
    Have you actually heard it though? It's so nicely produced. I don't listen to it because I like the song, there's just an epic sounds on the vocals that isn't over done.
    oliwilton
    If Gordon Ramsay makes me a shit sandwich, I'm still not gonna eat it, no matter how well it was produced.
    Funnyname99
    Seriously, I think Adele's record label, either XL records or Columbia records, is putting the Ultimate Guitar manager's kids through college... So much effort has been put into blowing Adele's new album. Really transparent. another powerful album that highlights her once-in-a-generation voice - - *Spew.
    Aryan Death Man
    Im not sure what your point is here.Yes,I mostly listen to metal and hard rock.But I appreciate other genres as well.It seems to me that general mass here on UG are hating on her because she is mainstream pop.I dont think the voters even listened to the album completely. And she has a genuinely talented voice,whether you like her music or not
    ArtieFufkin
    Once-in-a-generation voice my ass
    Clutch Control
    She can really sing, but she isn't blessed with a great or interesting sounding voice. To compensate she sings more like a goose. Theres lots of people in the same boat.
    Funnyname99
    So seeing as she sings like a goose, laughs like a duck and looks like a moose, do you think her 4th album with be a concept-look at Animal Farm?
    jman99
    I read a comment somewhere that compared Adele's album to eating turkey on thanksgiving. Complaining about her mid tempo formulated pop ballads is like complaining about eating turkey again on thanksgiving. Sure it's the same as last year but it's still a great meal.
    Funnyname99
    Unless you're only eating Turkey because the Turkey farmer put all the other farmers out of business, then hired a PR department to make sure no one ever remembers that there was an alternative to Turkey... It's not tradition to listen to shit, bland music....
    OutOfDaBox
    I wasn't excited by "Hello" when it came out. But when I heard it at Jimmy Fallon's I really liked it.
    I think the production doesn't make any justice to her songs and voice. IMO Adele live is much better than in her overproduced albums.
    UncleBluck
    Thanks for posting the song dude. Never heard it before and for the life of me I don't understand what all the talk is about. More generic pop by someone with a voice....
    iommi600
    A lot of filler tunes and a few great ones that make it worthwhile in the end. It seems as if the soul influences that were so clear on 21 have vanished, sadly. Some of the tunes here just sound like elevator music with her voice on top of it.
    nautiluspfd
    She doesn't write her own material. She works with songwriters (sometimes more than one) and then contributes lyrics and a few vocal melodies here and there, but for the most part her music is written by producers/songwriters. Just throwing it out there.
    D4CE
    She collaborates with other artists, but she's still the main writer. There's nothing wrong with taking inspiration from other musicians.
    nautiluspfd
    I'm not saying its a negative thing. It's how pop music works and has worked for decades. And no, she is not the main writer. She basically gets presented with a catalogue of songs by various producers/songwriters and then picks the ones she wants to use potentially. After that she gets with the producers, hashes out lyrics, and then tracks the song. This is virtually how ALL pop music is made. Hell, even Ozzy Osbourne's last couple of records were written that way.
    D4CE
    I get that a lot of pop music is written that way but that's not how it works with her. She gets together with other musicians and has writing sessions with them. It took her this long to finish the album because she had a writer's block.
    Funnyname99
    (Even her Twitter posts are pre-approved by her PR team.. There's nothing she does in the public domain without marketing and branding approval. Honestly.)
    Funnyname99
    People don't want to hear that. They don't want to hear that the pop industry creates brands and markets products. Adele is a brand, her album is a product, she is not some independent darling from the streets; she has an an entire industry of talent and PR management and promotional advertising and branding behind her, to convince you that she's the greatest thing you can remember.
    Aryan Death Man
    user Rating : 4.8 Shows the close-mindedness of the br00tal metalheads of UG. I'm not that big fan of her,but i think this album is at-least worth of a 7
    mckenna64
    No she has a great voice I don't think anyone can deny that, but lyrically and musically this album is extremely boring and generic. Like something an X Factor winner would come out with for their first album. Comparing Adele's musical arrangements and songwriting compared to what Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, Etta James, Shirley Bassey and all the other female soul singers she is emulating is no contest they were far more interesting. I've listened to this album 3 times and other than Hello which has been played to death so can't really be avoided, I can't remember a single song.
    ErnestoFidel
    Hey, this girl is 25 years old and has already put out three spectacular albums that easily beat everything else contemporary that's on the radio these days. I don't know what the other ladies you mentioned had reached at that age, but I feel that Adele is at a turning point of her work and career with this - people have said it - not so great album. I hope she will find herself musically in the years to come and be strong enough not to get sucked into the interests of production companies. Now, she probably has more money than she could ever spend, and that should affect the music in a positive way. She doesn't have to please the masses anymore. A jazz record would be great
    Funnyname99
    Everything she is is due to those production companies. If you haven't noticed, she's been front and centre of every possible commercial space. They've pushed her so hard on to the world and created every ounce of her fame. I doubt she'll be "moving away from them" any time soon.
    JuggaloCloud9
    I just can't buy into the hype. It's just not music I personally can listen to. Not saying she's not talented but it's just not for me.
    Funnyname99
    Are you falling into that trap of "I liked it so you must have a serious attitude problem"? Maybe we thought it was shit, and listening to extreme music might illustrate what we think of incredibly bland, lifeless, same-thing-next-year, industry endorsed drivel?
    keefsy
    Im a br00tal metalhead. I'd happily listen to Adele any day of the week. I think 4.8 is a bit harsh. Old mate down below saying "compared to *insert arguably the greatest female vocalists of all time*, Adele isn't as good. If falling just shy of those big names gets a 4.8 then i would expect most other pop to get a review of 0-1.
    Wininacan
    Err, most of UG hates brutal metal bud. It's the 15 year old slash deciples more likely
    Hajiki
    Adele should not even be mentioned on this site. What the fuck.
    korinaflyingv
    Once in a generation voice? You must be shitting me haha. I think what you mean is "she can sing". You can't seriously pretend her technical skill is anything more than very good.
    BwareDWare94
    Great vocalists are fine but when they employ annoying vocalizations during entire songs, like she does on "Hello" with the way she enunciates every word in that annoying fashion where they cut out and back in, it takes away from how great the material could be. I'm not sure if anyone will know what I'm talking about but she could have sang that song a little more smoothly and it'd have been just fine. Some artists get too...arty...with their art. If that makes sense. I understand she's trying to convey the barrier between them but she could have done that in a different way.
    Zerath
    She did it more Staccato while you want her to do more Legato
    BwareDWare94
    You put it nicely--I want her to sing like she's in her late twenties not her late teens. Not to say she doesn't have the freedom to employ whatever vocalization she wants at any time, but this particular vocalization cheapened the hell out of the message of "Hello." The idea of the song is too deep and layered to sound so juvenile.
    damillion
    I get it, and I agree. Just like having a godlike guitar tone isn't going to make you the worlds best guitarist having a godlike voice isn't going to make you the worlds best singer. Overly expressive, melodramatic vocal phrasing just makes me feel like someones trying too hard, like they're trying to fake it or fool me in some way. A lot of people are undeniably fans of it though...to each his own, I guess.
    bdof
    Answer: This multi-grammy winning singer is a fat chick with a scratchy voice. Who is Adele? That's right!!!
    lanebennett123
    I really like Adele. I don't know much of her work though, besides her hits and whats played on the radio. Need to give her catalog a listen-through.
    Jazzmandtk
    Just heard "Hello" for the first time... anyone else think it sounds like a not-as-good version of "Video Games" by Lana Del Rey? Meh
    BwareDWare94
    David Nail has been covering "Hello" live and singing it without the silly vocalization. It sounds much better.
    stratomaiden
    It isn't a bad album. To be honest I would give it a 6.5/10, (I'm being generous). She's clearly vocally talented (But she doesn't make my list of Stratomaiden's top 50 singers of all time) and she has no vocal competitors in today's mainstream market so she comes off as superior. But the album is too generic, it feels repetitive and it doesn't come close to 21. I understand the hype surrounding the album at first but now it seems exagerrated. It makes sense knowing that she's didn't release new material in nearly 4 years but the anticaption's already gone and I just don't understand why people are raving about the tracks. Less than a handful stand out to me and this is a huge disappointment. Remember we waited because she's talented, we anticipated greatness. Her last single before Hello was SKYFALL. Now that was epic, but I feel let down after this. Hello is a decent track and only made it to the top because of the anticipation, not its "epicness". Trust me if Adele released Hello 4 years ago,it wouldn't have sold nearly as much and it certainly wouldn't qualify as a lead single. Well she has a great marketing team! (I'll give her that.)