Adele Did It… Again

At what point does this tried and true formula become obsolete?

It has been six years since Adele dropped her last album, 25. She has been a starlet in the industry for well over a decade, known for taking her time to produce her ballads. Yet, Taylor has dropped eight albums in the same time (ten if you added rerecords); Ariana, six; and Beyonce has even released five since Adele stepped up to the plate. All are critically acclaimed and commercially successful. So, why does it take Adele so long?

Adele symbolically leaves the house she built in 25 in her music video for the single “Easy on Me” from new album 30. (“Easy on Me” Music Video)

The classic two-year album cycle of many name-brand artists is slowly dying. While the streaming era has accelerated the process for many, Adele has moved in the opposite direction. She has lengthened her stay away from the studio from a mixture in between each album. This has worked in her favor; this system builds anticipation for each album.

21 was more talked about than 19. 25’s opening sales annihilated 21’s. Now that 30 has arrived, it is clear this formula is now broken. 30 is on track to sell less than a third of what 25 did. Opening reviews show that it is also less acclaimed than 21. Adele has successfully hit a rut. 

All of Adele’s records sound eerily similar. The themes change slightly and the production becomes more modern, but the songs from each album are nearly interchangeable. For past albums, this was acceptable. She had a brand — a niche that she created for herself among the pop and rap music that usually gets overplayed on radio stations nationwide.

30 is deeply honest like the rest of her records. It follows the same heartache, sorrow and self-discovery. Yet, as I said before, most of the songs could fit nicely on any of her old albums. Which is fine, but stale. The few highlights on the album are when she adventured outside of her usual ballad nosedive. 

“My Little Love” incorporates something Adele has never experimented with. She inserts intimate voice memos with her only son and moments of self-doubt. The song, a love letter for her son, would be boring, quite frankly, without the insertions. “Oh My God” is almost anti-Adele, and it works. A fully fledged pop song, which moves even farther in that direction than 25’s peak “Send My Love (To Your New Lover).” 

Caption: Back after a 6-year hiatus, Adele sports a green gown in a Vogue photoshoot. (Vogue, Alasdair McLellan)

Unfortunately, this newest record is lacking in these moments of surprising production. The climax free “Can I Get It” and could-be-a-Disney-opening-track “Strangers By Nature” take a blow to the project. These songs might have been a moment to remember ten years ago, but Adele already did that. 30 feels like it wants to be as colossal and culture shifting as 21, but falls beyond flat.

Adele is a musical genius, but has not grown in years. Her emotional intelligence has developed exponentially publicly and privately over the past few years. This growth does not appear in this project. Sans the motherhood theme, her melodies and lyricism could still be written by her 21 year old self. After her divorce, Adele fans world wide were selfishly excited for something good and exciting. This project does not live up to the hype.

30 is not worth a six year wait time. It feels like how a high-school reunion turns out to be. Leading up you are excited for the drama and the suspense is killing you. “Where did ___ end up?” “Are ____ and ____ still married?” Just for the highschool peak-ers to show up and nothing interesting to happen all night. Nothing thrilling happens in 30, but we know that Adele has had a wild ride. She should not paint this album to be her most vulnerable and intimate if nothing actually happens.

Now, do not get it twisted. I am not saying for Adele to be good she must air out all her dirty laundry to the world. She does not owe us details of her relationships or pain. She does owe us her best efforts. I know, or at least hope, that this was an earnest attempt at creating a great work of art, yet I know, or at least hope, Adele can still do better. Adele’s tried and true methods no longer work, and something has to change if she wants to retain her title of revolutionary.

The album cover to Adele’s new album, 30, features her own profile, in line with her previous album covers. (Spotify Music)