The 2010s were a monstrous year for Adele. From winning the Grammy for Album of the Year for 25 and winning the Academy Award for Best Original Song, Adele has made herself known as a dynamo pop star who writes with a chip on her shoulder. And that chip has allowed her to deliver her all while reflecting the energy which pours through her. Adele’s latest album, 30, doesn’t change a beat, save for the production – she comes into her own, taking a transitional step into unique sounds. 30 isn’t as dynamic as 21 or 25, but it relates to her tempered and soulful roots of 19, but with a matured and more rounded sound. It barely transitions in glossy pop production and instead, giving her producers the challenge of delivering music that is more stripped-down while retaining the same depth most Adele albums have had.
30 is unlike most Adele albums; it doesn’t bring a riotous and emotionally hammered pop song that creeps into many subsections of the radio/streaming genre spectrums, like Top 100 and Adult Contemporary. It has, however, given Adele the platform to let her words speak the truth and resonate with the fans. Some of her biggest hits never failed to miss the mark by having a production that outweighs Adele’s vocal performances and songwriting. And the litmus test is upon us with 30 as Adele isn’t here to deliver emotionally raging hits, like “Rolling In The Deep,” but she still brings the same gravitas. To me, it instantly hit at “My Little Love” – around the one-minute mark – and Adele speaks instead of singing. She slowly breaks down as we hear audio of her and her child, unleashing powerhouse feelings about her life since her last album, including marriage and motherhood.
“My Little Love” is this poetically and emotionally driven song that expresses the inner strain and turmoil that arose as she prepped herself to explain to her child about the divorce, considering the amount of time he has been under one roof with both parents. Divorce can cause strains and imbalances for both the parents and the child amid the proceedings, but more so because for Adele since her son has eyes to view past surface layers and understand her feelings. The heavy string sections relay the atmosphere/emotions that slowly begin to trickle and break. There is no denying 30 is a heartbreak album. And if it isn’t apparent with “My Little Love,” it’s apparent with its compilation of songs that fit a linear story.
30 isn’t an album that you can play on shuffle, or else the scope will diminish. Adele made this album with intricate transitions, especially within themes and moods. After a backstory to remedy what will transpire, emotionally, for the rest of the album – Adele hones in on these emotions and explores them more. Following “My Little Love,” we receive the beautifully soulful anthem about allowing yourself to cry it out without feeling like it will make you feel weak. Though many songs grasp various angles of her emotions, like “I Drink Wine,” where Adele sheds off her ego, humbling herself by describing her regrets and mistakes. However, it doesn’t leave a mark like songs, “Can I Get It.” The song sees Adele speaking on her ventures in the single life, making allusions to casual dating here and there, talking about the distaste the consistency brings.
One consistent trait that has carried over has been Adele’s talent to turn each production on its head and make herself the central focus, even when you have dynamic strings and atmosphere, like on “Someone Like You,” trying to take the light. Like the previously mentioned “Can I Get It,” the production by Max Martin and Shellback is subdued compared to the glossy nature, typical, of the producers, especially within the drop. On “Can I Get It,” the pop overtones contain plucky and dazzling acoustics elevated by the tender percussion. And for the most part, the production contains a wide range of sounds, barely scratching the surface of redundancy. However, that’s to Greg Kurstin’s and Inflo’s credit, the producers for most of 30. Kurstin and Inflo show an elegant contrast, especially with Kurstin’s more explorative nature. Inflo’s production, on the other hand, feels very broken and intimate considering my knowledge of the production duo starts and ends with rapper Little Simz.
Unfortunately, the production can’t continually save a few of Adele’s deliveries. “Oh My God” and “Woman Like Me” come and by quickly without giving you a chance to reflect, as what follows hook you immediately. And it’s a detriment to the album since, to me, it feels as if these songs were left on the cutting room floor and left us with a tighter album. Though that may be an internal reason, it doesn’t leave me feeling like they had the visceral strength to keep me invested. I found myself skipping swiftly to the more immersive “Can I Get It.” I think it will hit people differently, but one thing is for sure, 30 is an album that would have weird pay-offs if it was.
30 is more than just an album; it’s a cohesive rundown of Adele’s emotions as she goes through difficult moments in this stage of life. She carries herself firmly, finding a happy medium between reflecting on the smaller, joyous moments in her life and what troubles her as she shifts into a new phase in life. It is a great record that may resonate better with others, but what’s on the surface and its core is worth giving it a listen to.