Adele | 19 (Xl Recordings UK, 2008)

spin_adele.gifI am struck by the fact that I’ve found another album dealing with love that hasn’t totally turned me off.





The amount of experiences that contribute to the shared human condition is almost limitless, but if one were to judge humanity solely on recorded music, love would appear as the obsessive, end-all be-all focus of human lives. For every heart broken, romantic dream discarded or suitor for whom every significant emotion turns and cuts inward, there is a song (no, two) that has been written (and often not well).

Shifting to the first person (if the writer may), I sit here at World Cup Coffee listening to Adele’s debut album, 19, and I am struck by the fact that I’ve found another album dealing with love that hasn’t totally turned me off. Whether I’m generally turned off to love songs because it’s so obnoxious to hear about clouds parting and sun shining love for others, or because there are just too many damn love songs out there, or because I’m just simply getting soft in my old age is irrelevant at this point. What I’ve noticed is that songs or albums that deal with the darker aspects of love seem to paint with more colors (and more interesting ones) and contain more that we can learn from. If we’re not learning something from music, about the world, about others or ultimately ourselves, what’s the point?

What I learned from Adele’s album was rich and real. 19 comes heavily from the "short end of the stick" side of love. With charming lyrics that are naïve enough yet still authentic and serious, I only worry (far too selfishly) that this 21-year-old North Londoner will mature too quickly, and with her newfound fame find love and deprive us of what she does so well. While enough songs about this subject matter can become repetitive and laborious, what saves this album from that abyss is the music behind the lyrics and Adele’s quite stunning voice.

Not to pander to the feminine too much, but walking down the dark road of love with a woman as guide is extremely refreshing. The path is not radically different than when a man is guiding, but with Adele as guide, there are nuances that she points out that others might not.

Adele’s music has been compared to that of Amy Winehouse, and although I see a few connections, I find Adele’s music to be much more gentle, inquisitive and tenderly exposing. Adele has remarked that she sings "heartbroken soul," and I would be hard pressed to find a better (or more succinct) description.

Her voice is strong in the right places, delicate and challenged at the right moments, but simply gorgeous and powerful constantly. What first presented a wonderful challenge to me while listening to this album was the contrast between the rather sad and self-aware lyrics, and the oftentimes uplifting music behind it.

The most powerful albums regarding love in my opinion are those that you can throw on late at night with a candle burning while you’ve written off the entire world. You sit in your room, seemingly not caring if the world burns around you (secretly hoping it does), as long as you have a front-row seat. As the music progresses, you begin to remember this forgotten world you saw as nothing but kindling, and start to see it as less of an enemy. When the album is finished you get up off of the floor, light another candle, draw the blinds, open your windows, let the night air in, start the album again, and rejoice in the depth of your own immaculate power and grace. This is one of those albums that will guide you through such a night. | Andy Powell

This article was originally published in The Times-Standard.

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