Last January 28, 2008, Adele released her debut album 19. I could not be bothered to listen to its entirety until a few days back. Back then, I wrote her off as another one-hit or one-album wonder whose career would eventually be irrelevant.
I knew her for “Chasing Pavements”. It was a grand masterpiece sung by a voice full of soul contemplating the worth of unrequited love. Macy Gray had “I Try” nine years earlier, got a Grammy but has not made it big since. Sure, Adele won Best New Artist. But who knew she would overcome the odds and even 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 and “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 links to reviews that were already broken. Is it simply an issue of site maintenance or was it a deliberate attempt to conceal one of the biggest mistakes that threaten their credibility? You be the judge.
Back then, some considered Adele to be trailing behind Duffy and Kate Nash. 21 happened and her popularity shot up like crazy. She soared past her contemporaries and even musicians whose journeys started ahead of hers. 19 got a second wind, sold thrice what it initially did in the US, and is now looked at more favorably.
Besides “Chasing Pavements” and “Hometown Glory”, “Make You Feel My Love” aged well that 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 this was a Bob Dylan cover. Her version is excessively brilliant that I am willing to say her rendition is better than the original.
Besides the fan favorites, 19 is filled with genius that the rest of the mainstream public deserve to hear it, not just the MySpace community. I digress, but before getting signed to a record label, “Hometown Glory”, “My Same” and “Daydreamer” were featured on her page in that social networking site.
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”. This setup is optimal for her range and soul to shine and be highlighted.
However, there are two distinct tracks in the album where Adele had to depend on not just her vocals but on heavy production. “Tired” is one of them, being aided with synth and violin that I never associate with her music.
“Cold Shoulder” is the other. It screams of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie”. Knowing Mark Ronson produced both seem to shed some light on the striking similarities. None of these facts take away the joy I get when listening to the two tracks. In fact, it’s refreshing to hear Adele inject more color into her music.
“Right as Rain” is a standout. It’s upbeat and gives a glimpse 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. But most important, there are simply good tracks that deserve to see the light of day.
Album Spotify Link: