25 – Adele

The album I just can’t fall in love with

When I first had the idea for The Wall Mag this was the piece I envisioned being the one to start us off. There wasn’t a particular reason for me to write about this specific album first; my thoughts on it weren’t supposed to set a tone for the whole project, it was more that this was what I was thinking about at the time. I was on a train in Europe, watching mountains roll past, just thinking ‘why do I like even like Adele’s 25?’

It’s two years later and the sentiment behind this piece is still the same—I’m not sure what that is a testament to. For whatever reason, now feels like a good time to write about an album whose sole defining feature (for me) was that I never fell in love with it.

Despite the fact that Adele’s 25 (2015) is one of the best-selling albums of all time and won the Grammy for Album of the Year—a sad, sad controversy that we will not speak about now—I see it as the definitive ‘not good enough’ album. And I mean that with all the love in the world because, when it comes down to it, when I listen to it, I really enjoy 25. So why have I never bought it and so rarely think about it?

On three separate occasions I have walked into a record store with full intentions of buying 25 only for my attention to be caught and won over by something else.

In dangerously simplified terms, there are usually three categories that albums fall into:

  1. Not good, won’t buy or listen to it again (see: Miley Cyrus Bangerz)
  2. Good, will listen to it but probably don’t need to own it (see: Dua Lipa Dua Lipa)
  3. Great, will buy and cherish forever (see: HAIM Something to Tell You)

But 25 is a whole other thing: any time I listen to it I think it’s a great pop album and I need to go spend my money on it, but then when it comes to the actual transaction process 25 slips back down to level 2. Pick a lane Adele, I’m not going to create a whole new level for you!

My weird inability to buy this album is just a symptom of something bigger: Adele’s music, as incredible of a musician she is, is just not very memorable.

Besides her collaborations with Paul Epworth, no Adele song has made a real, lasting impact. 25 was created in collaboration with some fantastic producers: Max Martin on ‘Send My Love’, which is one of the best song on the album; Ryan Tedder (if you’re into that kind of thing …) on ‘Remedy’, which is … just lifeless,let’s be real; Dangermouse on ‘River Lea’, which is probably my favourite song on the album. Still, 25 just doesn’t inspire any emotion or thought other than ‘what a lovely, well-crafted pop album’.

Every LP needs to have a flow, with thematic high and low points that take us on a ride, because what we really turn to pop for is to live vicariously through it. Pop is what you listen to when you’re stuck in traffic and you want to escape to a reality where (for example) you’re wearing some gorgeous outfit, at a rooftop party, networking with editors of some flashy magazine who are all desperate to get you to write for them and also to find out how you got your hair to be so flawless (see: Carly Rae Jepsen Emotion). Adele’s 25 doesn’t really inspire any emotional, day-dreamy response. It won’t pump you up if you listen to it while getting ready to go out. It won’t be great, inspiring music while you do your work.

And maybe that’s not the point of it, right? Maybe the point is to listen to a beautifully crafted album with some powerful collaborations between a talented-as-hell singer songwriter and some of the best producers in the bizz. Maybe the point is to have an intellectual pop album, one written and marketed so elegantly that it wins BEST ALBUM OF THE YEAR over one of the most innovative albums of the past decade. So, why does it still feel like it lacks an integral aspect? I really appreciate Adele and I do believe that she deserves all the recognition she gets, but this third album of her career just doesn’t feel special enough.

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