After months of anticipation, Adele releases “25,” her first new album in three years, and throws us all off with “25,” a surprise project that the pop star performed live in November in London. As it turns out, “25” is about Adele, her childhood, her artist aunts, her parents, “the feel of a dreamy summer, a stroppy boy.”
“Then there’s the wild fire we created/Yeah that’s not fair/When it’s good it’s better than it’s bad,” she sings. “Oh, I didn’t know how to handle it, was afraid, couldn’t cope/Ain’t know how to let it go, I let it go/Well, I know it now.”
The former “X Factor” winner teases fans by announcing this new album early in December, two weeks before its March release. When the album is finally here, it’s the lead single “Hello” and its introduction of Katy Perry, also a friend, that fans will have to listen to repeatedly. Even Kanye and Bono have got themselves on the track.
Musically, “25” is another body of work that is half-of-the-pack, with “Rolling in the Deep” and “Someone Like You,” both written by Paul Epworth. Tracks like “Water Under the Bridge” emphasize the British soul pop she’s always been known for while embracing production quirks from Calvin Harris and an abundance of producer Ron Aniello, the man who’s co-produced the likes of Miley Cyrus and Beyoncé. “25” also finds her getting old in more ways than one, singing about “When I was young, if I was going into a store or a café/If I had a question I’d ask ‘But why?’/Now all I want to do is disappear.”
In other words, “25” doesn’t try to make history as a massive phenomenon and doesn’t try to be anything more than a great album. “I’m not interested in relevance. I’m not interested in mastering the art of staying relevant. I’m only interested in keeping making records,” she told Billboard in July. “I like making songs, I like writing songs.” If you want to hear what she calls “the rage of the heartbreak,” read on.
“Hello” is the sultry, funk-pop gem that makes all the sense in the world. Its drum machine-driven breakbeat, slow, haunting melody, and its powerful groove are the perfect mix of old school adele and new school Daft Punk. It’s not your parents’ sultry, funk-pop hit, it’s the new sultry, funk-pop hit that will win you some dance moves and catapult you to newfound sobriety. At the very least, it’s probably the perfect soundtrack to the number of sleepless nights you’ll lay side-eyed in your bed while listening to it.
Perry, who made her entrance on the album, doesn’t appear on “Hello” for the first couple of listens, but her presence on the album will be felt throughout. In fact, she plays a not-so-subtle part in getting to the hook, “You sound like you are a small-scale version of me/The noises you make are the things I grow up next to/I can feel your teeth/’Cause we grow up next to each other/I said hello, yes I did.” Once Perry makes a comment like this, it’s a sure bet you’ll be singing along with her a month from now. At one point, she even sings “hello to my little four-year-old self,” and it is extremely endearing.
But despite their inevitable hook-up, the relationship between Adele and Perry stays more like a distant companion than a full-on collaboration. Where the album’s predecessors send out positive vibes, “Hello” is a soundtrack for the suffering. “I wanted to write a warm-hearted song about letting go of the past,” Adele said in her interview with the New York Times, “but I wrote this and I remember I thought, This can’t be too