highbrowse.ie
  Twitter Facebook
  Reviews | Gig Listings
21
Adele 21
Released 21 January 2011
Producer(s)


Paul Epworth, Rick Rubin, Jim Abbiss, Fraser T. Smith, Ryan Tedder, Dan Wilson
Label XL Recordings
Length 46:02
Genre Pop, soul, blues
Website www.adele.tv
67

Picture this: you’re twenty-one years old, your debut album has sold 2.8 million records worldwide. You’ve won a plethora of awards, including two Grammys. Where do you go next? Simple: you get on the phone to Rick Rubin. It is a measure of how much is expected of Adele’s follow up to her phenomenally successful debut 19; that she has enlisted a hugely impressive team of co-writers and producers, including the aforementioned Rubin and Florence and the Machine cohort Paul Epworth. Sadly, it is a measure of how much this dream team has underachieved, that instead of a bone-fide classic, we’re left with a very slick, highly listenable, but ultimately patchy effort.

It’s certainly been a whirlwind few years for the young Londoner, who broke through so spectacularly in 2008, taking audiences by storm on both sides of the Atlantic with her incredible voice and fresh take on the classic soul sound which led to comparisons, fairly or unfairly, with the likes of Amy Winehouse and Duffy.

Three years on, Adele returns with 21, a more mature and assured effort than her first full-length. With the likes of Beyoncé, Leona Lewis and Will Young’s songwriters on board, it is no surprise that the actual quality of the songs is very strong, and as for Adele herself, this collection bears the hallmarks of an artist becoming more and more comfortable with herself as a vocalist: there is never the sense of her struggling with the pressure of having to follow such a commercially and critically successful debut. Lead single 'Rolling in the Deep' is excellent; a feisty gospel stomper oozing with crossover appeal. It opens the album perfectly, but in truth it is a little disingenuous: apart from 'Rumour Has It' and 'I’ll Be Waiting', Adele and her team play it safe, resulting in a collection of mid paced ballads, radio friendly R&B grooves and even a touch of Shania Twain ('Don’t You Remember') thrown in for good measure.

21 will probably, like its predecessor, sell by the shedload, and will undoubtedly soundtrack its fair share of dinner parties over the coming months, but it is not an album befitting a singer of Adele’s quality. Her voice -it really bears repeating- is outstanding, and she manages to carry off some of the weaker tracks through sheer vocal charisma, but the fact remains that there is simply too much filler: specifically too many overwrought piano-led ballads. 21 is a solid follow up overall, falling slightly short of greatness, which is frustrating, because Adele’s extraordinary talent deserves an extraordinary album.

- Ken O'Meara