Album of the Week: Adele, '25'

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Adele, '25'
Adele, '25' (Columbia Records)

Adele's third studio album, 25, is a reminder that the massively successful pop star is unlike her contemporaries. She returns to her roots as a vocalist whose talent resides in heartfelt ballads and saccharine love songs. Adele resisted the temptation to release radio-ready hits and prove that she's the biggest international pop star of the 21st century. Instead, the unlikely pop star released an album for her true fans.

When she first visited The Current in 2008, Adele was anything but a media-trained international icon. Still living with her mum in South London, The BRIT School graduate talked about seeing Prodigy at Glastonbury at the age of 10, and the rigorous schedule of touring the U.S. Her debut album, 19, wasn't an instant success; Adele was more likely to be found in the Adult Contemporary section of your record store than on an end cap. But after the record-breaking success of her sophomore album, 21, everything has changed for the young British singer.

Despite her success, Adele appears to have resisted becoming what the world might expect. Her third studio album is far from the pop album you might have anticipated. While there is no lack of veteran producers credited on 25, the end product sounds more like a collection of soft ballads compared to the rhythmically driven singles on her sophomore album. The lead single, "Hello," was co-written and produced by Greg Kurstin (The Bird and the Bee), whose career has been shaped by producing artists like Lily Allen, Tegan and Sara, Beck, and The Shins. Kurstin is a pop producer an indie-rock sensibility that is perfectly suited to showcase Adele's vocal talent.

The closest the album comes to what might fit the mold of pop radio is "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)," a song with subtle hooks produced by Max Martin ( the Swedish producer who has worked with Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Britney Spears). Adele went so far to avoid sounding like her contemporary pop artists that she ditched Sia's hit song, "Alive," which was originally written to be included on the album. In contrast, Adele held onto the lush mid-album song, "When We Were Young," that was co-written by Canadian indie darling Tobias Jesso Jr. The themes on the album are a continuation of Adele's personal narrative with the additional experience of the birth of her first child, making songs about growing up and moving on more believable than before.

25 will most likely eclipse the commercial success of Adele's previous work, but that shouldn't be the measure of its success. Adele chose to release an album that doesn't abandon her own voice. While critics will write that this album is more of the same, it's refreshing that a pop star would avoid the temptation to reach for the obvious.

Adele's 25 is out now on Columbia Records.

Audience ratings for this album


Among The Current's listeners who submitted a rating for this album, 78 percent gave it 5 stars out of 5. Poll closed at 12 noon on Friday, Nov. 27.

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  • Adele performs live in The Current studio Back in 2008, when Adele last joined us in our studio, she was a 20-year-old with a strong debut album and a number one hit in England. Two years later, she has accomplished wonders. Her soulful blues vocal style won her a Grammy in 2009 for Best New Artist as well as a number eleven slot on the Billboard 200.
  • Adele performs in The Current studios At just barely 20 years old and still living at home with her mom, Adele has a debut album that has already hit number one in England. With a strong, crisp voice that was perfected at her rock-and-roll high school, she got a record deal based on the first song she ever wrote, 'Hometown Glory.'
  • Adele performs in The Current studios At just barely 20 years old and still living at home with her mom, Adele has a debut album that has already hit number one in England. With a strong, crisp voice that was perfected at her rock-and-roll high school, she got a record deal based on the first song she ever wrote, "Hometown Glory."

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