I’ll be the first to admit, I was definitely not the first person to join the Adele fan club; in fact, I had no idea what her hype and stardom was all about until two months ago, when I listened to her music for the first time. That’s right, I listened to “Rolling In The Deep”, the song that debuted in November of 2011 and won just about every music award since then, for the first time in June of 2012. And it’s not like I was not aware of her music or popularity, nor was that possible: her face is always somewhere at the top of the charts section in every music store I go. Nor have I been purposely avoiding her music. It’s just one of those occasions where I just never got around to exploring her music until after she’s established herself as an icon.
Can she be called an icon? Well, if she were to retire today and not make another album, she will forever be remembered by her work in “21”, the album that is sure to be viewed as one of the recent greats.
Why is Adele so special? Why did her repertoire of catchy pop songs and power ballads become mega hits, garnered her six Grammys in a year, and propelled her to becoming one of the biggest stars in the world? It wasn’t her singing; judging purely from a vocal standpoint, she is not in the same league as Whitney Houston, Catherine Jenkins, or many other popular female vocalists. What sets Adele apart from other popular female stars is her charm, her down-to-earth personality, and the way in which she delivers her songs. She radiates a unique kind of sincere and genuine emotion during her performances that captures the audience and never lets go.
In addition to the first admission of not getting to know her music earlier, I also confess that when I first listened to “Rolling In the Deep,” I was not overly impressed. To me, it was another simple, bluesy-pop song about a girl who is doing fine without the guy she had just broken up with. I would go on to love that song later on, though, as its catchy build up to the chorus and the chorus itself always makes me want to dance and sing along when I’m out.
The first Adele song that really struck a chord with me was undoubtedly “Someone Like You.” It was such a powerful ballad that had me in awe; my eyes were fixated on the computer screen as I watched and listened to this emotional tune of lost and recovery. In contrast to the original recording, the two live versions that are popular on YouTube, one during her Royal Albert Hall performance and the other at her home, featured less vocal range but somehow retained the emotional force. The song also serves as a personal inspiration for me; I can relate to it and I want to do a rendition of it myself.
“Set Fire To The Rain” was the second song that impressed me. Again, the lyrics are nothing extraordinary; even the metaphorical usage of ‘fire’ and ‘burning’ in the aftermath of relationships has been done countless times before, and the song’s outro lyric of ‘let it burn’ reminds me of Usher’s “Burn”. Having said that, the song is nothing short of epic. The way in which it builds up to a climax at the end is immensely satisfying.
The rest of “21” is spectacular, as well. With elements of motown (“Rumor Has it”), blues / gospel / and folk in songs such as “Take it All”, “I’ll Be Waiting”, and “Lovesong”, the album is dynamic in its range but full of soul throughout.
I’m very glad that I finally listened to Adele’s music, because it is such a joy to listen to her voice, her moving lyrics, and she has inspired me to get back into making music myself.