Adele, 19

Andrew Perry

By Andrew Perry

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

As with Amy Winehouse, the sheer power of Adele's voice naturally attracts comparisons with '60s soul greats like Dusty Springfield, but what makes her exciting is a rawness that was impossible in that era. Like Wimbledon's Jamie T and, in fact, Amy Winehouse, Adele's Tottenham heritage is instantly obvious to the native listener, from her gor-blimey, glottal-stopping enunciation to her street (or: Streets, as in Mike Skinner) vernacular. In a country where Queen's English has dominated culture for centuries (including pop, oddly), her regional colour feels fresh, too.

One of 2008′s most lauded debuts.

In a broader sense, though, she "speaks" for a promiscuous, binge-drinking young generation, who have no recollection of Britpop, let alone War-time values. In a superbly poignant image, Adele was spotted throwing up out of a cab window after a 2007 Spice Girls reunion gig.

Vomit aside, 19 is a terrific pop record, brilliantly sequenced and fresh-sounding. For this listener, the only misfire is "Cold Shoulder," produced by the ubiquitous Mark Ronson, with his now rather jaded-sounding shuffling beat. For all its thrilling execution, the main reason that 19 will surely go the commercial distance is the quality of Adkins'songs. Her lyrics, mostly about the lows (and very occasional highs) of romance, have a disarmingly direct impact. You're in no doubt that she has lived these tunes.



"Daydreamer" offers a startling introduction to her world, as she lays bare a relationship with a bisexual guy who prefers his gay fella. "Best for Last" is a fantastically savvy (but moving) analysis of a casual liaison, where each partner is too cool to commit, acting out a charade of intimacy, but secretly longing for more. "Right as Rain" celebrates of the sweet agony of emotional ruin.

A minority chunk of 19 is dispatched by Adkins solo, sometimes armed with an acoustic, others on bass, or, as on "First Love," celeste. There, the one-on-one force of her voice is quite staggering, at times swooping and soaring, at others intricate and agile. Amid these moments of intimacy, other tracks begin minimally, as does her almost-chart-topping first single, "Chasing Pavements," only to erupt into orchestral splendour of epic proportions.

There's probably no finer compliment, however, to offer Adele than this: Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love," beautiful covered midway through, anything but towers over the rest of 19, songwriting-wise. For once, Britain's next big thing has the talent to warrant such attention. Let's just hope that fame now provides her with an ongoing supply of crap boyfriends…