on August 12, 2008
There's no disputing the gifts of Tottenham-born Adele Adkins, the latest BRIT graduate to stroll into the charts. As we know from her single Chasing Pavements, she has a sensational voice: rich, robust, voluptuously bluesy.
Is she the new Amy Winehouse?
It is not quite right.
True, both are white girls who owe a debt to black soul, both sing with a London twang ("I don't get nuffin' back," rasps Adele on the punchy "Tired"), and both are in pieces because their man done them wrong.
Eleven of the 12 songs on Adele's debut are about heartbreak (the other, "Hometown Glory", is about how cool London is).
Adele, though, is easier to listen to than Winehouse. Her music is cleaner, less menacing: there's the bright acoustic-guitar chime of "Daydreamer", the lullaby twinkle of "First Love", the plush strings of "Melt My Heart to Stone".
Her mesmerising singing tone, honest lyrics, jazz and soul influences, and brash Cockney speaking accent, echo Amy. But Adele's delivery is far more delicate.
Lyrically she's simpler, too, occasionally even soppy: "When there's no one there to dry your tears, I could hold you for a million years," she gushes on "Make You Feel My Love".
Where Back to Black sounded emotionally and musically true, almost everything on the covers-all-bases "19" sounds like it was absorbed by osmosis at the London's BRIT School for Performing Arts (where she, Katie Melua, Leona Lewis, Kate Nash and Winehouse are alumni).
Some will find Adele rigidly old-fashioned. Her influences (Etta James, Dusty Springfield, Billie Holiday) are from another age.
A cursory listen may lead you to conclude that Adele has a voice way in excess of her years. In terms of technical ability, that's true.
The instrumentation seems designed to usher you to that conclusion: a dash of jazz bass, the odd string arrangement that seems to take its cue from Massive Attack's "Unfinished Sympathy".
"Sumptuous one moment then fragile the next, this is an album dripping with beauty and class.
Adele's voice caresses and inspires, and is superbly supplemented by piano, guitar and glorious orchestration".(Lee Davis)
All that we can say is that she sings with unabashed passion about a kind of pain we can all recognise, and that sort of thing doesn't date.
Made of Bricks
Piece by Piece
on August 8, 2008
I found Adele about year ago on Myspace. I was instantly taken with the single Best for Last. I searched online for the CD because I had to here more from the person who posessed this voice I can only describe as "chunky butter"; unexpected and smooth. I absolutely couldn't find her anywhere not even in the record stores. I waited patiently because I knew she would not get away in the age when her type of music is such a breath of fresh air. I've had the CD in my hands for 3 days now and it's been all I expected. I can't stop listening to it. I still enjoy Best for Last but I seem to repeat Chasing Pavement, Make You Feel My Love which was one of my faves from Garth Brooks. But, I'd have to say Melt My Heart to Stone and Right as Rain are my favorites and touch me personally. I haven't listened to a CD this much since Corrine Bailey Rae. I didn't think to compare Adele to Amy Winehouse until I read a comment here. Although I understand the comparison there is something in Adele's voice that is so well rounded. Her voice reminds me of Sunday afternoon; patient, comfortable, strong but peaceful and not tormented. Her voice makes you want to play her in the background when you're entertaining friends or someone special for the evening. It's nice to see there are at least 12 songs in this world that maintain class, heart and beauty. I can't wait to hear more from Adele.
on January 20, 2009
My partner's and my love affair with Adele was a slow-starter. We first heard her on SNL. As we heard "Chasing Pavements" every now and then, we'd say to one another, "I think I like that song, " then "I'm really starting to love that song," then "We have to buy that CD."
Well we bought the CD at Christmas time. I have got to say we love all the songs. LOVE THEM. We are the kind of people who will listen to something over and over until we are sick. The back buttons on all our CD players are worn from repeatedly listening to the same tracks over and over.
It would be the same with 19 if the quality of the recording wasn't so damn poor! It's horribly distorted and difficult to listen to unless the equalizer is set to flat. I thought it was our stereo at first, then perhaps that the CD was damaged but I have seen a few other comments on the web about the quality of the recording. It's a shame because it really distracts from the pleasure of listening to the album and robs her great voice of its depth.
on April 25, 2008
Adele's voice is fantastic and emotive. She blends British acoustic with blues and soul like Lauryn Hill(unplugged) meets Tracy Thorn and Etta James.
This is the only album I have listened to for the past month. My favorites are (soulful) Melt My Heart to Stone, (folk/country) Crazy for You, (blues vocal) First Love and (motown-ish) Right as Rain.
Her style is NOT the Amy Winehouse raspy attitude type of voice. Adele's niche is with her guitar and her voice.
I can't get enough.
on January 18, 2009
In the first few minutes of this album, you start wondering what all the fuss was about Amy Winehouse. Adele, a classmate of Amy's at the BRIT school, smashes through the pack of today's mediocre voice talents. Though Amy Winehouse is a very good singer, Adele's surpasses her more famous classmate with superior musicality, maturity and tone. Nearly all the songs on the two-disc set (live and studio recorded) are excellent, and a hefty percentage of them were written by Adele. The next step for Adele is to lean less on the voice acrobatics, something she does only a tad too much. Her strong voice, centered-pitch and ability to mix music and lyrics into something that transcends both are a strong enough signature. I very much look forward to future albums from this promising young talent.
Also, get the two-disc set. Almost any current singer out there can sound good in studio recordings. Adele's live performances (disc 2) are even better than the studio recordings and underscore just how impressive an artist she is.
on February 11, 2008
With declining album sales, and with the smashing success of Amy Winehouse (millions sold, 5 Grammys won), it seems every British record label has been on a major quest to discover the next Amy Winehouse as a solution to their woes. One of the names being touted for that post is Adele Atkins, who had every major and minor music critic jostling to outdo each other in lavishing her with plaudits. Heck, she's even getting a Brit award later this month, and all this before she had even released her debut.
While most girls her age grew up listening to Britney, Spice Girls and Kylie, Adele was listening to some of those too, as well as to Eva Cassidy, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, and some Amy also. She does have a rich, smoky world-weary voice to boot. Listening to "19" (titled after her age), I didn't find it as immediate as Amy's CD was, but it is a grower and there is an attempt at sonic variety. The album was produced by Mark Ronson (who also did Amy's, and just won a Grammy for producer of the year).
I guess in an attempt to deflect too much comparison, Adele's disc isn't restricted only to smoky retro jazz/blues sounds in the 12 tracks. In fact, opening cut "Daydreams" is an acoustic ballad as are "Best for last" (though this has jazzy phrasings), and the sparse bluesy "Crazy for you".
Lead-off single (and #2 UK hit) "Chasing pavements" is a lush, sweeping jazzy power ballad. Similar is closing cut the stirring "Hometown glory" (an ode to Tottenham), a stunning piano/string ballad and my favourite. "Melt my heart to stone" is a downbeat blues tinged string filled ballad, while "First love" is lullaby-like, complete with tinkling bells. "Make you feel my love" is a sombre (almost hymnal) piano ballad with weeping cello/violin.
Upping the tempo are "Cold shoulder" with skittery beats, "Right as rain" (Jazzy and bluesy, very Amy Winehouse), the catchy "My same" (with a snappy jazz/pop feel, I love it!) and "Tired" (lovely change in tempo midway).
The new Amy Winehouse? Not quite (one listen to "Back to black" puts paid to any such notion), but she should be able to carve a niche for herself in a field that promises to get even more crowded as the year progresses (with people like Duffy coming). Not bad at all for a 19 year old.
"19" proves that the latest invasion of female British singers are definitely going back to the 60's for their inspiration, and they are doing an exceptionally good job of bringing that infectious R&B/soul sound back. From Amy Winehouse to Duffy to young Adele, these ladies are harking back to everyone from Diana Ross to Dusty Springfield to even Peggy Lee. Winehouse and Duffy have already set the bar very high, and Adele comed right behind them and raises the the bar for the next in line.
Infused at times with her folksy guitar playing, Adele has a voice that already sounds like a finely used instrument. Husky and strong at times, but sweet and mournfully tender at times, she showcases it at her best on songs like "Chasing Pavement," "Right As Rain," "Make You Feel You love," and others.
Adele is another rich British talent, and one hopes that she keeps herself together with all the challenges that fame and huge talent bring.
on November 6, 2008
I first saw Adele when she made her appearance on Saturday Night LIve and I, literally, stopped ehat I was doing and listened to her voice with my mouth agape. Her vocal style is absolutely flawless...and she was actually singing (not lip synching). The next day, I bought the album 19 and was, once again, floored with the amazing tone of her voice and how all of her songs would simultaneously get stuck in my head. I found a few live performances including a Live Video she shot for "Melt My Heart To Stone" and she was even BETTER live than on her album.
She may get compared to Amy Winehouse, but Adele has such class and control of her voice, and her songs filled with such passion and feeling, that I think that soon, Amy Winehouse will get compared to Adele...and Adele will blow her out of the water!
This girl's voice is unbelievable - so wise and soulful at such a young age and it's not enhanced or covered up with any electronic effects like so many young artists. The music speaks to the human condition so no matter what your age you can relate. If you're into blues, soul, or even light jazz, you will dig this.
on October 24, 2008
If you have several personalities, everyone will probably like at least one, or some of them, right? This must be the theory applied by Adele and her collaborators when choosing the material and production for these 12 tracks. Avoiding the stylistic consistency of Duffy's "Rockferry" and Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black" (Adele's 2 UK soul sisters), they opted for an eclectic variety which left me feeling, after hearing it for the first time, that it was the oddest album I had ever heard. I want to say right off that Adele's talent is not in question here. She has a strong, smoky, supple voice, and she wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on the album, so she's got the goods. It was the lack of consistency that threw me at first, until I stopped expecting it and just listened to what was there.
I don't care for the first track, "Daydreamer". Not at all. I find it too soft and mellow, devoid of any spark. Thankfully, it only gets better from there. The next one, "Best For Last", sounds a little like what a lounge singer might sing. I like that. Then, with "Chasing Pavements", we get something in the realm of normal pop music. It resembles the retro style Duffy has cultivated. "Cold Shoulder", grounded by a basic hip-hop beat and decorated with very inventive vocals and production, is one of the best tracks. "Melt My Heart to Stone" has the general feel and spirit of Macy Gray's "I Try". In "First Love", Adele's vocal blends sweetly with the accompaniment of what can only be (in my head, anyway) a humongous music-box. "Right As Rain" and "My Same" abound in energy and would probably delight a Vegas audience. Adele sings Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" better than anyone I have heard; her sincerity of feeling for the song is very evident. I think "Tired" could probably be a hit for the current Duchess of Pop, Fergie. And finally, I like "Hometown Glory" for its solid, thick piano sound and the cultural/political implications in its lyrics.
I hope I have given you some idea of this CD's variety. Adele shows a lot of promise. She has proven that she can sing just about anything and do it justice. But I feel that for long-term success, she needs to narrow her focus a little and "define" herself a little, as they say on American Idol. Otherwise, all of those different voices might just blur in people's minds and make her too vague to remember.