Last January 28, 2008, Adele released her debut album 19. I could not be bothered to listen to the entire tracklist until a few days back. When I first discovered Adele, I wrote her off as another one-hit or one-album wonder whose career would eventually die.
She was the woman behind “Chasing Pavements”. The song was a grand masterpiece. She sung with a voice full of soul contemplating the worth of unrequited love. Macy Gray found similar success with “I Try” nine years earlier. She won a Grammy like Adele. But fate has not been kind to Macy Gray. Who knew Adele would overcome the odds and become a legend?
Don’t feel bad if you got it wrong. You and I are not alone. The critics slammed the album and her relevance to the music scene. “The melodies are largely indistinct, almost certainly the result of not putting much effort into writing them. The lyrics are the cherry on top – quite simply, she’s a poor writer” wrote one publication. “Here’s hoping the girl’s storytelling will one day be as interesting as her phrasing” said another.
If these critics looked back, they’d be embarrassed. In fact, some of the scathing reviews that fed to 19′s Metacritic score of 68 had hyperlinks that were already broken. Is it site maintenance or a deliberate attempt to conceal a humongous mistake that threaten credibility?
Majority considered Adele to be following behind Duffy and Kate Nash’s footsteps. 21 happened and her popularity shot up like crazy. Since, she soared past her contemporaries and musicians whose journeys started ahead of hers. 19 got a second wind, sold thrice what it did in the US initially, and has benefitted from kinder eyes.
Besides “Chasing Pavements” and “Hometown Glory”, “Make You Feel My Love” aged well. In fact, it’s oftentimes 19‘s most requested. You can look down on me for being ignorant about my music history. But I didn’t know the track was a Bob Dylan cover. Her version is excessively brilliant and uniquely executed that I am willing to say her rendition is better than the original.
Besides the fan favourites, 19 is filled with genius that the rest of the mainstream public deserve to hear. These are songs that audiences outside of the MySpace community. I digress. But before getting signed to a record label, “Hometown Glory”, “My Same” and “Daydreamer” were featured on her MySpace page.
Adele’s voice is her biggest asset. Most songs on the album rely on little instrumentation -over a guitar, or a piano arrangement, or what sounds like a musical jewelry box in “First Love”. The setup is optimal for her wide range and the soulfulness of her voice.
Two tracks stand out for their heavy production.
“Tired” is one that’s infused with synth and violin. These instruments aren’t part of her trademark hits.
“Cold Shoulder” is the other. The song screams of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie”. For perspective, Mark Ronson produced both. This sheds some light on the striking similarities. This fact doesn’t take away the joy I get when listening to them. The colour and flavour that Adele injects in it is refreshing.
“Right as Rain” is the pleasant surprise. It’s upbeat and gives a taste of Adele outside of the ballads and the mellow melodies she is now known for.
The album is not without its flaws. In fact, some tracks border on dull. But overall, it is worth celebrating and revisiting. It introduced us to Adele and her immense talent. She made it without the pressure and burden of matching a successful predecessor. Most importantly, there are great tracks that deserve to see the light of day.
Album Spotify Link: