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The Many Voices of Adele
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.