“I’ll be taking flowers to the cemetery of my heart,” Adele sings as she opens her fourth studio album to date. Her newest album, “30,” which was released on Nov. 19, is a testament to Adele’s growth as an artist, a mother and a person.
The 12 tracks begin with one of the best, “Strangers By Nature.” Opening with an organ synth, this song feels like a case of the holiday blues. The combination of cinematic strings and Adele’s robust but gentle voice reappears as the glue that holds the varied track list together. Telling the story of the year in which her marriage fell apart, “Strangers By Nature” starts to get into the heartbreak of her divorce. With classical 1950s pop motifs guiding this track, Adele croons, “Every anniversary, I’ll pay respects and say I’m sorry” and “No one knows what it’s like to be us.” The song is slow and sweet, her lyrics melding into the strings and old-timey ambience, and it’s a perfect introduction into the world she tries to paint throughout the rest of the album.
The popular pre-release “Easy On Me” seems like one of the weaker selections from the album, especially when it’s followed up by the deeply contemplative, extraordinarily tender “My Little Love.” In a love ballad to her son, Adele sings, “I see your eyes widen like an ocean / When you look at me so full of my emotions.” The song is interspersed with recordings of her actually speaking to her son, saying “Mummy’s been having a lot of big feelings recently” to which her son asks, “Like how?” The rest of the song truly feels like she is trying to explain to him why she feels such pain. “My little love / Tell me, do you feel the way my past aches? / When you lay on me, can you hear the way my heart breaks?” she asks of her child, singing in the main chorus, “I’m holdin’ on / Mama’s got a lot to learn.” Aside from the beauty of Adele’s voice and the humming in the background which lays gently on top of the drums and strings, the song’s story is one of the most intimate looks into her life that she has ever revealed. The song details in painful honesty the struggle of raising a child during a divorce, and it closes to a voice recording of Adele describing her emotions: her paranoia and anxiety about continuing with life past her marriage. There aren’t enough words to adequately explain the sheer emotion that this track contains, and it is likely one of the most impactful in Adele’s entire discography.
“Cry Your Heart Out” and “Oh My God” are the upbeat songs that really emphasize Adele’s versatility. They carry the track list through its heavier moments in conjunction with songs like “All Night Parking (with Erroll Garner) Interlude,” which samples a jazz piano riff from the late jazz legend Erroll Garner in a sonically colorful track about falling in love again. “Can I Get It” is another example of her versatility, a song driven by a guitar, a heavy drum beat and melodic whistling. It’s songs like these that really save the album from becoming one long, tormented journey of emotions and ballad-style pop songs.
And then the album returns to the slow and the sad which have made Adele so famous. “To Be Loved” and “Love Is A Game” close “30” with the familiar Adele style. “To Be Loved” is a monument to her vocal ability as her powerful voice fills the relative silence of the song, raw yet stronger than ever. “Love Is A Game” returns to the classical pop motifs as she offers a more tortured version of love: “That love is a game for fools to play / And I ain’t fooling, what a cruel thing / To self-inflict that pain.” But in the last verse of the song, Adele sings, “I can love me / I can love again / I love me now like I loved him” and that she would do it all again.
Adele’s “30” delivers more emotion and rawness than we could have expected. Some songs are written better than others, while others feel like they are a little too reflective of Adele’s signature style. Overall, “30” reached a level of intimacy that her previous projects have never fully achieved. Adele takes her audience through some of her lowest points, but finally gives a more in-depth glimpse at some of her happier moments with tracks that sing sunshine across her discography and add a level of tenderness to “30” which will not soon be forgotten. Adele has proven that her voice and songwriting have matured with her through life, and both are stronger than ever. “30” isn’t a perfect record, but it’s Adele as we’ve never seen her before, and the result is certainly close to perfection.