British pop legend Adele has once again shattered the ceiling of the music industry with her fourth album, “30.” But honestly, did anyone expect anything less?
The artist’s 2019 divorce from husband Simon Konecki plays heavily into the album, but Adele is past wallowing. “30” reflects Adele’s maturation both on a musical level and a personal level: she is no longer “chasing pavements,” but rather declaring that inconsistency isn’t going to keep a “woman like [her].” The twelve tracks each reflect differing themes of growth, yearning, reconciliation and healing.
The album’s release was celebrated with a televised CBS special entitled “An Audience With Adele.” Performed at the London Palladium, the concert’s crowd was comprised of Adele’s family, friends and musical heroes.
The artist has stated that her 9-year-old son is a large inspiration behind the album. In “My Little Love,” the heart-wrenching third track, voice clips of mother and son talking about her “big feelings” are interspersed between verses and choruses. The first and last songs of the album incorporate whimsical, lullaby-like background tracks: this is indicative of the album’s story-like nature, told almost like a fairytale for the benefit of her son.
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“30” dips into several new genres without abandoning the artist’s renowned specialty — soulful ballads with deeply personal lyricism. Tracks like “Cry Your Heart Out” evoke the style of legends like Aretha Franklin and Amy Winehouse, riding atop a snappy beat and reliant on triad harmonies. Adele then ventures into neo-soul in tracks like “Oh My God” and “All Night Parking Interlude,” reminiscent of the kind of groove accredited to Lauryn Hill and Eryka Badu.
For me and many others, it feels like I’ve grown up alongside Adele’s discography. When her premiere album debuted thirteen years ago, I loved it for its ability to be belted during car rides with sisters. “21” and “25” dominated karaoke nights with friends. Now, just having myself enter the stage of life in which she wrote most of her music, I feel like I am finally understanding it. And yes, there are often tears involved.
The album’s lyrics contain a duality. Adele is expressing the complexities of being thirty, of being a woman and of grappling with loss — but also trying to explain these in a way her child can understand. The profundity, yet simplicity, that results from this reminds me of a quote from author Carl R. Rogers: “What is most personal is most universal.” These are words that are very specific to her current place in life, yet they resonate with so many others.
The chart-topping icon successfully requested that Spotify revise a feature that automatically shuffled albums, indicating the significance of the tracklist. The order of the album’s twelve songs is a testimony to the non-linear nature of healing in the wake of heartbreak. While many of the songs are slow and emotionally heavy, there are also intermittent upticks in tracks like “Oh My God” — an addicting, lively confessional about her uncontrollable attraction to someone new.
For anyone who has experienced a divorce, break-up or the tumult of entering a new decade of life, this jagged ridge of emotional expression is cathartic. Adele encapsulates the confusing reality that is recovery: some days are spent in tears, some days in reflection and some are spent in the mood to dance.