Adele: 30 (Columbia) 


Verdict: Queen Of Sighs reclaims Her Throne 

She’s never been one to hide her innermost feelings from the world – whether it’s in the tear-jerking lyrics to her multi-million selling records or her recent confessional TV interview with Oprah Winfrey.

As she now releases her first album for six years, Adele post-divorce has raised the emotion dial in her music, Adrian Thrills discovered in his sneak peek listen to thirty…  

Adele is quick to lay her hands on the cards for her highly anticipated fourth album. In the very first song, Strangers By Nature she proclaims that “I will be taking flowers into the cemetery of mine heart.” This romantic, tear-jerker is adorned by subtle electronic and string sounds, as well as an electric piano. “Oh, I hope I can one day learn how to nurture all that I’ve done.

This message is simple: Fans should expect a lot of heartache, guilt and even some healing. 30 is titled after the age at which Adele, now 33, wrote most of its songs, and it’s a rich, soulful and varied tapestry of pop, R&B and jazz. The song will sound fantastic on an excellent audio system. But it’s worth having some Kleenex nearby.

The singer explained in the promotional blitz that her new record deals with the turmoil of her 2019 divorce from Simon Konecki and the impact it had on Angelo, their nine year old son.

Adele is known to be open and honest. Her 2011 hit Someone Like You is just one example of her rawness.

Go easy on me: Adele¿s ¿glam squad¿ zip her into an Oscar de la Renta dress for the launch party

Don’t be hard on me: Adele and her “glam squad” zipped Adele into an Oscar de la Renta Dress for the Launch Party

The 12 songs are a sharp contrast to her off-stage cheekiness. She can sometimes be irreverent in interviews. Recorded, she is straight and honest, making her inner turmoil not something to laugh at.

At the heart of it all, of course, is that dazzling, blue-eyed soul voice – emotional without being cloying – and her phrasing is as impeccable as ever here.

This album does not trace the story of a failed relationship, one by one. Music and the thrust of each song determine how it sounds. The song opens with three songs, before moving to a more upbeat pace. A period of jazzy introspection ensues before a show-stopping finale – the dramatic Love Is A Game – rubber-stamps its classic ebb and flow.

Adele collaborates with some of the familiar faces behind the scenes. Greg Kurstin, pianist and producer of six tracks is co-writing. The stomping Can I Get It – this album’s Rolling In The Deep moment – sees her team up with Swedish producer Max Martin and his sidekick Shellback.

However, two other names are also noteworthy. One is another Swede, Ludwig Göransson, a film composer who co-wrote that lovelorn opening track. The other is British R&B producer Inflo, who comes to the fore later on.

Opening ballads feature Adele’s recent song, Easy On Me. It is a plea for forgiveness and understanding regarding her decision to divorce.

My Little Love is another key song. This 1970s-inspired soul tune is about a conversation between mother and son. Adele tells Angelo her separation and requests his support.

Sighing, she says, “It’s hard for me to be here. ‘I know you feel lost, it’s my fault, completely… I’m so sorry if what I’ve done makes you feel sad.’

Fearful of singing too many songs at once, she increases the speed. Despite its title and angst-ridden lyrics – ‘When I wake up, I’m afraid at the idea of facing the day’ – Cry Your Heart Out injects a skipping beat, with handclaps and a high-pitched choir, at just the right point.

The mood brightens further on Can I Get It and Oh My God, the latter a mid-tempo R&B number about the arrival of new love – ‘I know it’s wrong, but I just want to have fun.’ The reluctance of fully committing anew is evident even here: “Wish I could break your walls but I am still spinning out from the fall.”

Rolling in the drink: Adele¿s cocktail-themed album release party with celebrity friends in LA

Drinking up: Adele celebrates her album’s release with celebrity pals in LA.

Soon she’ll drown her sorrows yet again. I Drink Wine has a gospel-soul feel and is more of a lament than an exclamation on boozing. She sings with wonder, “When I was young, everything could blow my mind,” It was fun to soak up the wine, now it is all for me.

Things take a jazzier turn on All Night Parking – an interlude featuring the sampled piano of the late American jazz musician Erroll Garner – before some big power ballads close the show.

Adele’s vocals are shaking as she competes for backing vocalists on Hold On. This tour de force, which begins slowly but becomes intense when drums and bass enter, is described as Adele’s “Adele’s crazy buddies”. She tells us, “I swear to God that I am such a mess,”

To Be Loved ends with her holding a powerful, steady note. An otherwise understated track put together with Canadian musician Tobias Jesso Jr. – with whom Adele co-wrote 2015’s superb When We Were Young – the song is slightly spoiled by lyrics about ‘owning’ all her bad turns that suggest the Tottenham-born singer might be spending too much time in LA.

Drinks: The menu for Adele's drink-themed album launch party

Drinks: A menu to Adele’s cocktail-themed album release party 

Love Is A Game closes the album. Adele confesses that she isn’t closer to solving her love puzzles during the powerful soul song. She admits that her heart is in codes and puzzles. Her voice has been bolstered again by the big production. The canned applause is all she needs as she dances and ad-libs towards the end.

Does 30 Live up to its hype? Some might feel it is too self-indulgent. But Adele is a sensitive singer-songwriter who’s always worn her heart on her sleeve – and she does so with added whistles and bells here.

This is a return to barnstorming form for me. Although it might not be her ‘drum and Bass record to spite all you all’ joke, she did make this in 2019 as it showed that she is capable of singing in a variety of styles. The queen of sadness is returning to the throne in an autumn that has already witnessed the returns of Ed Sheeran and Abba. 

Friday, February 30th is the deadline.