I want to start off by saying that this album is, without a doubt in my mind, more of an outlet and coping mechanism for Adele than it is music designed to be mass consumed for profit. I think this aspect is where some criticism come from in the review of this album and some overlook just how emotional this album is meant to be. Adele is coming off of a divorce, while caring for a young child, comments on her weight, and suffering from almost debilitating anxiety at times. This album is the culmination of all of these things in the most heart-wrenching way possible. I understand this can take away from the enjoyability, but at the end of the day, Adele is going to sell and I’m going to listen.
Some notes about the album:
1. 30 seems to be Adele branching out of her comfort zone as she delves into different genres. It isn’t your traditional soul-pop. We see almost an Amy Winehouse-esque neo-jazz-soul blend.
2. I get hella holiday vibes from some songs, especially the intro and outro (just in time right?), despite the subject manner.
3. The songs are much longer than the normal 3 minute songs we have grown accustomed to as listeners (the average length being almost 5 minutes/song). I believe this comes from a very candid approach in how she planned on producing this album and the reason for my first statement of this article.
4. Adele has single-handedly changed how Spotify listeners listen to music with the shuffle play button being removed from the album interface.
5. Adele has matured emotionally in her five year absence. The toll the divorce had on her is blatantly obvious and almost painful to listen to. There is no happiness to look forward to in this album.
We’ve all been on edge for years waiting for a new Adele release. 30 was everything I was expecting it to be. Raw, emotional, riddled with pain but growth as well. I think peak excitement came with the tv concert Adele had aired the night before the release date, titled One Night Only. You can see a segment of that tv concert with the link below. It took place at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles within eyeshot of the Hollywood sign. It was as visually stunning as it was audibly stunning and the set consisted of some old favorites and a peek at some new songs.
Opening with the deeply emotional “Strangers By Nature”, Adele gives us a peak of what the album will consist of: loss, sorrow, clarity, and growth. Here, we see the growth past the woeful lover and into a more observant and clear-headed artist who can recognize that she is no longer familiar with her surroundings, especially herself. This song is filled with a grandiose collection of instruments and you can feel the build up and she starts off in a lower pitch and ventures upward into the chorus. This song was written with the help of composer, Ludwig Göransson. I get heavy dose of holiday nostalgia with the accompanying instrumentals.
I’m going to skip the lead single, “Easy On Me”, as there are so many great analyses of this song. It has also been out the longest and I feel like I’ve listened to it so many times and I feel like I might be tired of hearing it. To see more on this track, check out Z-Sides' review on the song here!
The next song, “My Little Love”, is one of my favorites. This song is very hit or miss for most people, you either love it or hate it. If you are used to the high flying pop version of Adele, this sort of song with probably turn you off. It is very emotional as she converses with her son (who recently got to hear his mother perform for the first time). It feels deeply personal as she tries to describe the effects of anxiety and depression to a child, one that doesn’t know any better. The artist also traverses the effect the divorce with her husband may have on the child and how deeply apologetic she is for that. The song ends with a voicemail to a friend in which she breaks down in a sort of panic attack. I think this song is important in revealing just how human Adele, and even artist in general, are. They can suffer from anxiety, depression, they can be sad, and angry, and anything else, because at the end of the day, they are people too. Adele is especially candid in this song, and I love that.
Adele follows with another one of my favorites with “Cry Your Heart Out”. This song isn’t necessarily happier, but it is more upbeat as the BPM is increased a bit in this song. The song itself is a bit of an affirmation, basically saying it’s okay to face your emotion, cry, and take it at your own pace. We wouldn’t be able to see it but Adele feels like she hasn’t been herself lately, this song is just a reminder of the former statement. This song is one of those Adele songs where you can do nothing but admire the incredulity of her voice. Even in her live performance, the highest peaks of her voice are perfect. There’s a bone-chilling sort of twang in the pre-chorus that really solidifies it as one of the best songs of the album, at least vocally.
“Oh My God” seems to be an ode to a new flame. The artist expresses guilt as this relationship comes on the heels of her divorce but she just can’t help herself. It isn’t confirmed but I believe this song is likely about her new flame, Rich Paul, a star in his own right as an agent to the biggest sports superstars. This song feels a bit more on point for Adele as we delve into the semantics of dealing with relationships and their effect on her. I can’t help but smile when I listen to this song, it’s fun, upbeat, and shows an artist willing herself to move on.
“I Drink Wine” is a long song that traverses the effects of divorce on the psyche. Adele questions how things can change so drastically between two people that love each other (How can one become so bounded by choices somebody else makes?/How come we’ve both become a version of a person we don’t even like?). She blames society for restricting each of from expressing our true lives, which ultimately can take a toll on any relationship. Ultimately, this song is an examination of these societal norms surrounding (self)love and recognizing the vanity that lies between these norms. This false version of love (or the people we present ourselves as) can really jade you as a person. So as Adele says, “I hope I learn to get over myself/ Stop trying to be somebody else”.
Skipping ahead, the last two songs of the album or some of the strongest. Each of the songs are pretty slow and are both over six minutes long. Again, this album was personal and candid, an important aspect to how the album is put together. In “To Be Loved”, Adele shows off her full vocal range. We start with a quieter confrontation to be honest with herself. Slowly, we build up to the belting chorus in which she is honest about her stance on love. It’s hard to be honest with yourself, especially in the wake of traumatic events that could impact your children. As such, this is song Adele herself struggles to listen to the song, she said in an interview with Zane Lowe for Apple Music.
We close out the album with “Love Is A Game”. I’m gonna be honest, this song is for millennial moms coming out of a divorce or a relationship. Really the whole album, yet that definitely doesn’t take away from enjoyability. The conclusion that Adele comes up with is simple: “Love is a game for fools to play”. This is probably an appropriate assumption given everything she’s gone through recently. This song takes us out on a high note. It feels like closure, but it isn’t necessarily the end.
It’s worth noting that technically the album doesn’t end there. In the Target CD version of 30, there are three additional songs that can’t be played elsewhere. I can’t bring myself to buy a CD in the year 2021 so I have no insight on these songs. However, I’m sure they are just as great as the rest.
Adele delivers a deeply personal album, that I feel like is more so closure for herself and serves as an outlet rather than a product meant to be consumed. I’m not sure she cares about the numbers or how it sells, just that she got all her feelings out and shows that we are not alone in the dark recesses of our minds. And for that Adele has created another classic.