By Bruce Sylvester
As Adele’s tour bus traveled across the States in support of her top-selling debut, 2008’s 19, the driver pumped the sound system with American roots music – the likes of Wanda Jackson, Etta James and Lady Antebellum – sounds the young Brit hadn’t yet encountered but took to. Their influence is clear on Adele’s follow-up, 21 (XL/Columbia).
The highest-powered tracks, “Rumour Has It” and “Rolling In The Deep,” open the disc. Here’s the best of two worlds: dance music with strong lyrics.
Adele had wondered if she’d have anything to write about for her sophomore disc. Then she became involved in a love affair that blossomed, expanded her consciousness and then withered. Relationships in ruins have fueled plenty of successful discs. Take Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and Hank Williams’ love songs to Miss Audrey. Some of 21’s songs are kissoffs, as when the tables turn by the end of “Rumour Has It.” She’s said, “When I was promoting 19, I thought, ‘What the hell am I going to write about? Hotels? Air miles? I was very very lucky that life intervened.’”
She’s brought in several producers (Paul Epworth, Jim Abbiss, Fraser T. Smith and Rick Rubin, who did so much for Johnny Cash) to help with the songsmithing. She co-wrote everything here except an acoustic-guitar-based cover of The Cure’s “Lovesong.”
Yes, Adele Laurie Blue Adkins has a very large voice, but more than many young vocalists, she understands not to oversing a song. Some people scoff that high-quality music rarely tops the hit parade, but 21 debuted at numero uno in Billboard. Let’s anticipate discs that might be titled 23, 25 and 27.