Adele’s “30” shows a different side of love than her previous work


Courtesy of Columbia Records

Adele reflects on six years of love and loss with the release of her new album “30.”

Kethan Srinivasan, Staff Writer

Getting a new Adele album is about as exciting as seeing Halley’s Comet—and, thankfully, that excitement is more alive. The wait for Adele’s fourth record has been the longest. Nearly six years have passed since her release of “25” in 2015. This delay is justified, though, considering we’re talking about the legendary London crooner with 15 Grammys, 18 Billboard Music Awards, an Academy Award and a legion of followers down on their knees, reeling from her crushing ballads of betrayal and doubt. With songs like “Rolling In The Deep,” “Hello” and “Someone Like You,” Adele has consistently been a frequent sighting at the top of the music charts both across the pond and beyond. And now, the public is blinded once again with “30,” a true-to-form Adele record like all others, but with a tale of love like no other. 

Like her other albums, Adele drew upon her experiences to create this one. This time, in the aftermath of her divorce from ex-husband Simon Konecki, Adele found herself in what she described to be a state of regret. Speaking to Oprah Winfrey around the album’s release, she related this experience to her early life, noting the lack of a nuclear family in her childhood, and the guilt and anxiety stemming from the fall of the family she created with Konecki and her son, Angelo. In an effort to make sense of her present, Adele wrote this album to explain herself and her new life with Angelo, through the medium she knows best.
As such, unlike her past hits, “30” takes a different stance on the fragility of love—explaining how easy it is to fumble and break on your own, instead of describing how others may break it. Listeners got to have a taste of that differing stance when “Easy On Me,” the record’s second track, was released as a standalone single in October. “I had good intentions,” she laments during the bridge, “and the highest hopes / but I know right now / it probably doesn’t even show.” Continuing this theme, snippets of conversations between Adele and her son are interspersed throughout the track “My Little Love,” which is almost directly aimed at Angelo in its production and lyricism. “I’m holding on (barely),” she says in one passage, for instance, “Mama’s got a lot to learn (it’s heavy).”

The hardest-hitting part of the album, though, is the heft of pain felt in “To Be Loved.”  Shortly after the album’s release, a video of Adele performing the ballad from her sofa was released, which has accrued over 7 million views on YouTube. It’s a hymnal piece that conveys a painful sorrow that conceals a glimmer of hope for her and her son’s future. She won’t go quietly, she explains, as her grand belting further underscores her refusal to “live a lie.” “Let it be known, let it be known that I tried,” she further pleads, “I’m so afraid but I’m open wide.”

Adele’s lyricism has aged gracefully, as has the production of her music, to my surprise. A few of the tracks contain some bits that seem like a grand departure from her Southern-esque productions of “21” and her hybrid pop-and-soul of “25,” almost as if she’s created a blend of sounds of her own inspired by newer visionaries like Frank Ocean and Amy Winehouse. The opening track, “Strangers By Nature,” kicks off with a camp production (credits to Ludwig Göransson) of Disney-like strings and flutes accompanied by dramatic and forlorn wording, right from the first stanza. “I’ll be taking flowers to the cemetery of my heart,” she croons. From there, the pace picks up, with a personal favorite being “Oh My God,” which showcases a rare trait among Adele songs—a beat you can dance to. But perhaps the most unique work of music in “30” is found in “All Night Parking,” an interlude that gives a perfect blend of Adele’s jazzy roots and modern pop, thanks to the sampling of the late pianist Errol Garner. 

Having gotten past the genre shifts and the long tracklists, the trajectory of “30” feels clear and easy to comprehend. Six years of life is not simple enough to whittle down and concisely describe with three-minute pop songs that have amazing hooks and bridges (ahem, “SOUR”). Like I’ve written before, Adele has repeatedly demonstrated a resounding sense of maturity within every era of stardom. Emotional carnage and a castigation of love aren’t very simple things to remedy, especially when you come so close to the life to which you aspire, in the manner that she had done. The process toward healing is a therapeutic one, and time is a crucial necessity. “30” is reflective of this path—it leaves Adele reassured of her wants and the listener knowing she will find a better place.