Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday Listening - Adele

Everyone is well aware that Adele is Queen right now.  Despite her current hiatus due to some vocal chord issues and a current inability to sing for the masses, she has still managed to stay on the top of the charts and be the "IT" girl of the moment.  The recent release of her Live at The Royal Albert Hall DVD is helping (scroll below), and I could spout on and on about her current album, 21, but everyone else out in the music world seems to have that covered.  So today I'm going back to the beginning.  Many a current Adele fan was introduced to her music because of the popularity of 21 (which is worth all the hype) however I happen to think her first album, 19 - a far less "for-the-masses" album (if album sales and hype are the barometer), is equally as impressive, albeit for different reasons.

21 is an incredible heartbreak album- everyone can relate to any song on this album at some point.  The soul is amped up, the sound more robust and with more layers.  19, conversely, is a much more sparse album, with the focus on Adele's main instrument- her voice.  19 is a lesson in the power of soft simplicity.

Music is incredibly personal and we each have memories or reasons for loving a particular piece, which may explain my reverence of 19.  The first time I ever heard any Adele song, ever- was live.  She was opening for John Mayer at his annual holiday charity show at the Nokia Theatre in LA, and out she came with her microphone, her black cape-sweater, her nervous cheeky banter, and her voice.  There may have been a guitar in the background, but her voice filled the theatre like no other live voice I have ever heard.  And 19 were the songs she sung.

19, which was written when Adele was 19 (and 21 was written when she was 21, see?) starts off with a lullaby-sounding "Daydreamer" which immediately puts the listener at ease.  Her youthful age notwithstanding, this album (and 21) are like albums from old school crooners - no frills, pretty jazzy, and a focus on voice. And holy cow, what a voice. Keeping company with other British neo-soul artists like Amy Winehouse and Joss Stone, Adele entered into this arena leading with her voice- a voice like a silky ribbon coming of sound coming through her mouth, never faltering and never breaking.

The most well known song off 19 was "Chasing Pavements", which cracked the Top 25- a small feat compared to today's 21 successes (debuted at #1 in the US, with "Rolling in the Deep" selling more digital singles than any song in a year).

Then there's the funky-as-all-get-out "Right As Rain" which was a bit more robust for this album, but hinted at a future soul-funkstress inside.

My personal favorite song off of 19- and one of my favorite overall Adele songs- is "Hometown Glory".  While she hadn't yet gone on a major tour when this song was written, she manages to sing it like a road-weary touring troubadour coming home for the first time in ages, and she makes the listener feel as though they, too, are seeing London for the first time in a long time- as if we all belong there.

While we'll need to wait for Miss Adele to recover from her vocal surgery, we can tide ourselves over with reminders of her stellar first album.  Also, Adele has released her DVD, Live at The Royal Albert Hall, which is available now here: Adele Live At The Royal Albert Hall (Blu-ray/CD), but in the meantime you can listen to an exclusive stream over at Rolling Stone. 

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