30, by Adele
Adele has, since her youth, recorded a series of albums that is based on the year that the albums are recorded and released, and it is interesting to see the progress (or lack thereof), in the mentality and emotional maturity of an artist over time if they continue to mine the same territory over and over again. Some artists find a lane and manage to stay in it, which can be frustrating if they do not grow and develop while their audience does. It is hard to tell if Adele will fall into this trap–so far at least she has managed to have four immensely popular albums that mine the territory of romantic melodrama, and if this reviewer is at least a little impatient at her lack of growth and commitment, she seems not to be hurting in terms of popularity at the moment as her lack of progress in love and relationships is all too relatable even to those who wish it were not so. How does this album fare when viewed as a whole?
The album begins with “Strangers By Nature,” a jazzy ballad, that seems to set the tone of the album as dealing with alienation and regret, which is a great start. “Easy On Me,” the album’s smash first single, follows, and seems to seek to avoid responsibility for what is going on with the artist and someone else. “My Little Love” is six and a half minutes long and is a sort of love letter to her son, interspersed with recordings of the two talking with dramatic music. “Cry Your Heart Out” has some odd vocal effects and a jazzy riff that start the song and the rest of the song shows Adele indulging in her more lachrymose tendencies. “Oh My God,” the second single from the album, shows Adele frustrated with the struggles of her personal life and relationships. “Can I Get It?” has a stomping beat that reflects the pounding heart of Adele seeking love. “I Drink Wine” reflects Adele’s commitment to problem drinking and is another song more than six minutes long that sounds like something suited to Adult R&B and ends with a more spoken word from the artist. “All Night Parking Interlude (with Erroll Garner)” is a jazzy interlude that shows Adele’s interest in her relationship. “Woman Like Me” is five minutes long and shows Adele’s schizoid approach to a relationship, wanting to be with someone but feeling they are driving her away at the same time. “Hold On” is another six minute long song that reflects Adele’s inability to learn from the mistakes of her relationships to rise above the cycle of chaos. “To Be Loved” is more than six and a half minutes long and it is another austere piano ballad expressing Adele’s longing to be loved. The album then closes with another song that is more than six and a half minutes long in “Love Is A Game,” which at least has some classy strings to go along with Adele upbraiding herself for her problems with love and relationships.
In many ways this album is a punishing test of endurance, which seems to be a pattern of some recent releases at least. This album is generally good, if you have a fondness for glacially paced and austere ballads about relationship melodrama. If not, this is not going to be a fun listen. There are only a few upbeat songs that break the agonizing pace of this album where twelve songs–one of them a two-minute interlude–take up almost a full hour of music, mostly without exciting production to liven up the mood. It is perhaps unsurprising that the two most upbeat songs on the album have been released as singles and the other more upbeat songs are likely to be the other singles if the era goes on for the rest of 2022. As pleasant as Adele is to listen to, there are some elements of this album that are somewhat frustrating–such as her decision to include conversations between her and her son on a song that tries to absolve her of blame for her terrible decisions in raising him as a single mother of limited insights into love and relationships. One would think that someone who sings as much about love as Adele does, she would know a little bit more about it. How many more albums of Adele spinning her wheels and not growing at all are we going to be asked to sit through?