While the one track to release from Adele’s latest album 30 was a lacklustre bit of effortlessness on the singer’s part, it is nice to see that consistency crop up on her latest album. Easy On Me was the flagging signs of an album on the brink. A mediocre mixing pot of ideas that, apparently, are there to guide her children through her life. She has invented the musical audiobook or would have done so had it not been knocking around for decades. Successfully asking Spotify to not shuffle her album, great things are on the horizon with the singer’s latest work. It shows the impact she still has, the fanbase she has reclaimed, and the agonizingly snooze-inducing consistency that brushes through her work so easily.
Some hefty, six-minute tracks close the album, and after I Drink Wine, those lengthy ballads find themselves far beyond their peak. Opening track Strangers By Nature has some inspired writing. Darker tones than first expected for the Rolling in the Deep singer. There is no denying the talent behind that voice, and Strangers By Nature opens the album with a promise for more. Its accompaniment and backing orchestra give the track a lounge feel. Her self-doubt of “will I ever get there,” feels tender, rather than oblivious to her success. Her pop-soul charms are not lost on 30, but are stretched to their limit on tracks like Easy on Me, where the elongation of emotion and syllables is mocked with extensions of word and sound that are truly beyond the pale.
Where 30 is certainly a personal album, the notes of intimacy are of little musical positivity. My Little Love blurs recordings of Adele and her son into the track, but aside from those tender moments, the musicianship around it feels boisterous yet flat. An excessively long song, meant as a love letter to her son. It’d be quicker to just say that, rather than sing it. Cry Your Heart Out is the obvious slump after that storm of emotion. These are strong and broad topics, filled with empty units of carefully measured peeks behind the curtain. It is the tactful desire to put everything on the line without having any risk to back it up with.
Ultimately, though, these are the shallow notes Adele has sung of time and time again. Aside from a strong opener and an even stronger voice, 30 offers nothing that pushes the boundaries of such a talented voice. Not an album particularly worthy of her voice, or your time. “I ‘ain’t got too much time to spare,” Adele says on Oh My God. At nearly an hour, you’d hope for even less time to spare, and more to offer. An album that is both frustrating and vaguely inspired by earnest and tender moments, 30 is a misfire not because of a clueless singer, but because she and the music that underlines her lyrical styles are fighting against one another. Oh My God is the better balance of the two, where concepts are balanced and thought through. But that is not often for this return to music for Adele.