All the scuttlebutt about Adele has been the chart success, BUT HAVE YOU LISTENED TO THE MUSIC?
For too many years we’ve been inundated with look at me artists. I’m better than you. Watch me dance, see my big tits, come join the party.
You don’t want to party with Adele. THERE IS NO PARTY!
Hip-hoppers sing of kicking women to the curb. This is a record made by someone who WAS kicked to the curb. How does that feel?
You know. Because you’re not a famous rapper, you’re not a famous starlet. We’re inundated with them, from Paris Hilton to Kim Kardashian. It’s fun to watch the movie, but it’s soulless. And you can never say that about "21".
"21" is a peek into Adele’s world. Her inner life. It’s like we walked by a house and heard someone crying, got closer, and put our nose to the window. And inside, saw someone who was where we’ve once been. The land of heartbreak. It’s the human condition. To the point where some hook up with someone random just to stay in the game and others get old and refuse to play anymore.
It’s not about automobiles. It’s not about being rich. It’s about being human.
There’s a distance between "21" and the listener, and that’s why we’re so infatuated. That’s why there’s no stage set-up required. That’s why it’s not about festivals and arenas. Because it’s not about being part of a mass audience, it’s not about the party, it’s not about dancing, it’s about connecting with the artist, doing a mind-meld.
Not that Adele is better than the artists of yore. But she’s part of a long continuum. Which has been whittled down to a thread. But when we hear something real, we connect.
That’s what’s amazing about "21". It’s about the music. Not about the videos. Not about the fame. Only the music.
Sure, now that she’s successful she’s pulling back on the hype. But that’s the way it’s always been done. Even the Who did a commercial. Before "Tommy", before credibility. You do anything and everything to get traction, then you pull back.
But people want to tear Adele down. Talk about her statements re paying taxes. As if music is about stardom, as if artists are paragons who’ve got it all figured out and never say anything wrong or stupid. But they do. As did John Lennon. The best are honest and open, instead of hiding behind makeup and getting cut to appeal to an ideal that doesn’t really exist. Tell me the men who like the inflated lips of the trout pout set. It’s an endless race to the bottom. One in which money trumps art and everybody’s looking to get rich quick and won’t take a risk. Where marketing is more important than music. Where set-up is king.
Sure, XL and Sony helped make Adele a success.
But the reason she’s become a juggernaut is the music.
The tracks don’t sound exactly alike. They don’t have the required beats. She’s not playing by the rules.
And that’s why we like her so much. It’s like she’s taken the TMZ/Perez scene and flushed it down the toilet and walked away.
You’ve got to listen to the tracks. There’s not a clinker on the record. It’s one of the few albums you want to play from beginning to end, over and over again.
And you’ve got no doubt she can sing. It’s not studio trickery. It hearkens back to what once was much more than it looks into the future, yet it’s not retro, it’s just right.
You know the single, "Rolling In The Deep", but the next track is "Rumor Has It". It’s got a tribal beat that Paul Simon wishes he could lock on to:
She, she ain’t real
She ain’t gonna be able to love you like I will
She is a stranger
You and I have history
HISTORY! That’s one of the hardest parts of breaking up. You split up the friends, the photos, you’re cleaved in half and forced to start all over. Romance is a bad "Groundhog Day".
The third track, "Turning Tables", is the piece de resistance. It’s the song that Rufus Wainwright is dying to write. With all the drama, all the emotion of the tail end of a relationship. It’s an epic, with strings, a mini-opera, with the classic line:
I won’t let you close enough to hurt me
Who hasn’t been there? You get too close and you get burned. You’d like to return, but you’ve been singed and you just can’t do it again.
"Don’t You Remember". A quintessential album cut. Starting so quietly, it’ll never be played on Top Forty radio. The first line says it all:
When will I see you again?
The one left behind. He or she is not done yet. They believe if they see you they can convince you to stay, or at least hearing it in the flesh accept the truth and begin to heal. But who hasn’t dealt with a wimp who can’t even tell you you’re done to your face?
"Set Fire To The Rain" has a jauntiness akin to the lyrics. The recovery process has begun. The anger has been embraced and is now being evidenced.
What’s enrapturing about "He Won’t Go" is the sound. The twinkling, jazzy piano, like a rainy street after a night in the club. And the killer line:
If this ain’t love, what is?
I climbed this mountain and I’m not at the peak?
And "I’ll Be Waiting" has an upbeat feel, no one can accuse Adele of making a completely downbeat album. Kind of like when you start to recover from the end of relationship, you have good moments, they counter the bad.
"One And Only" is what the "American Idol" contestants strive for, but can’t achieve. With them, it’s solely about the vocal gymnastics. But they’re only half, the other half is the story, the song, when Adele sings you have no doubt it’s her, her story. And she stays shy of Mariah Carey/Christina Aguilera histrionics. Because just because you can do it, that does not mean you should.
And the closer, "Someone Like You", is the summation. It’s done, it’s over, she’s recovered, to the degree anybody really can, he’s got someone else, she accepts it, if she still doesn’t like it.
The killer couplet:
I had hoped you’d see my face
And that you’d be reminded that for me it isn’t over
I’m truly shocked. I’d about given up. People play me what they’re into and I brush it aside, it’s subpar, it’s music, but it’s not life itself.
But then I hear "21" and I get that tingle, my inner flame starts to flicker, my faith in music is suddenly rekindled. That the art form can be more honest and more pleasing than any other.
You know what hooked you once?
"21" has got that.
And the public has responded. In a record breaking way.
This is not anomalous. This is the way out. This is the beacon. Very few can do it, but enough can to sustain us.
Music happens in the mind. It goes in the ears and percolates in the brain. When done right, you close your eyes. Why has everybody been imploring us to keep our eyes open for so long?
I don’t care if you like punk or jazz or emo or hip-hop, you should listen to "21". You’ll get it. Because it’s open. And honest.