Adele’s ’21’ shows a more mature side

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By Kristen Cloyed, Contributor

Three years after the release of her debut album, “19,” Adele has returned. Her new piece of work, fittingly titled “21,” chronicles the Grammy winner’s rollercoaster love life in what is already being called one of the best break-up albums of all time.

With every song on the CD, Adele’s voice becomes more impressive. Her prevailing pipes can tower over the foot-stomping beats of the album’s first single, “Rolling In The Deep,” and then dial down to barely more than a whisper for the emotional “Turning Tables.”

Immediately after its release, “21” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, selling 352,000 copies in the first week and becoming the highest debut of 2011 yet. Adele attributes her fresh new sound to listening to country music while touring the Southern U.S. She chose the title “21” to describe how much she has grown over the last two years.

Born in London, Adele grabbed America’s attention in a 2008 episode of “Saturday Night Live.” The episode featured an appearance by vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and earned the show its best ratings in 14 years with a total of 17 million viewers. At the 2009 Grammy awards, Adele’s debut album earned her the awards for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

“Rumor Has It” begins with a steady kick drum and a soulful background of “oohs.” Adele sings to a past love, convincing him to leave his new girlfriend: “Bless your soul/You’ve got your head in the clouds/You made a fool out of you/And, boy, she’s bringing you down.” The track goes from upbeat, to slow and smooth and back again.

On “21,” Adele changes like a musical chameleon. She channels her inner Alicia Keys in “He Won’t Go.” The smooth track with a dominant beat is about sticking with someone you love through thick and thin. “I’ll Be Waiting” sounds like something straight out of a Kelly Clarkson concert. Her vocals are vivacious with a touch of soul in the bridge of the song.

Adele puts her own coffee-shop spin on The Cure’s 1989 hit “Lovesong.” Backed by acoustic guitars, she pays homage to one of her musical inspirations.

One of the best tracks on “21” is “Set Fire To The Rain.” With a steady beat and heavy emotion, Adele tells a story of love gone wrong: “My hands, they’re strong/But my knees were far too weak/To stand in your arms/Without falling to your feet.”

Although her voice is lively, Adele’s best work is heard in her ballads. “Take It All” is a heart-wrenching break-up song featuring the singer’s strong falsettos supported by a soft and sweet piano. “One And Only” has a cool blues vibe. The beat sways as Adele sings about diving into a new relationship.

The sheer emotion in “Don’t You Remember” is remarkable. Adele’s voice quivers as she sings: “When will I see you again?/You left with no goodbye/Not a single word was said/No final kiss to seal any seams/I had no idea of the state we were in.”

The album closes with its second single, “Someone Like You.” This exceptional track is about watching someone you love be happy with someone else. It is the perfect ending to a staggering album.

Adele is currently on tour in Europe and the United Kingdom. She will tour North America in May and June before heading back overseas to finish off with more dates in the U.K. Adele will be on tour until the end of September.

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