***If you think you've heard this review before, then you must've listened to last week's edition of "Musicheads" on the Current 89.3, for which I sketched out my thoughts on yesterday's big Adele release. Otherwise, I'm not nearly this coherent speaking off the cuff on the radio.
This week's big release is “21,” the second album by British soul-pop singer Adele, a k a Adele Atkins, who was 21 at the time of its recording just as she was 19 when she made her debut of the same name. She’s a mere 22 now. The disc is already out in the UK and lands stateside Feb. 22. Like all sophomore records that follow a big debut, this is very much a make-or-break, let’s-see-what-you’re-really-made-of kind of album. Adele has the added pressure of being the 2009 winner of the best new artist Grammy Award, which many see as a one-way-ticket to has-been status.
With that in mind, Adele and her minions hired some producers and songwriters with recently proven track records, including Minnesota homegrown boy Dan Wilson of Semisonic fame, who co-wrote three here and has also co-written hits with the Dixie Chicks and Jason Mraz, among others. I hear about five or six songs on “21” that really could be hit singles, starting with the opening track and first single, “Rolling in the Deep,” which the Current has been playing. The song was written with and produced by Paul Epworth, who also helmed Florence & the Machine’s record, an influence I think you can definitely hear in the heavy drums and slightly disco-ish production style. There are a few more punchy, up-tempo, girl-scorned type of songs like that, including one called “Rumor Has It,” which she wrote with Ryan Tedder, singer of the band OneRepublic.
The song that I think could be a really big hit – and mark my words here, I’m forseeing one of the girls of “Glee” remaking this song for Fox TV, I’m foreseeing it in trailers for the next Julia Roberts movie – is a heart-wrenching ballad called “Turning Tables.” It was also co-written with Ryan Tedder, and the opening line of it is, “Close enough to start a war… .” So you know what’s to come, and if you know how well this girl can sing, brace yourself. When she comes to First Ave – as she’s scheduled to do May 26 – I think the place will turn uncharacteristically pin-drop quiet for that song. Weepy ballads like this are really what I think Adele does best, and our guy Dan Wilson is pretty damn good at them, too. Thus, you know it’s not just local favoritism when I say I think Dan was involved in many of the best songs here, including another piano ballad called “Don’t You Remember” and then the album’s closing track, “Someone Like You,” which is just a haunting, brutal, kiss-off track that reminds me of Rufus Wainwright’s or Elton John’s bleakest stuff.
The one track I really don’t like is the cover of the Cure’s “Lovesong.” On Adele’s first album, my favorite track actually was a cover, her version of “To Make You Feel My Love” from Bob Dylan’s “Time Out of Mind.” “Lovesong” is not only my least-favorite Cure song, but 311 also already did a god-awful cover of it, and it just seems like a bad pick for Adele, too flat and light.