At 19, British R&B
belter Adele Adkins parlayed her views on the joys and pains of young love and
in the process successfully covered Bob Dylan, headlined The Hollywood Bowl and
brought home a pair of Grammys. For her
followup, she chronicles the anger of experiencing the heartbreaking fallout of
those romantic ideations as a full-fledged adult.
is, however, on 21, the majority of
the songs fail to fully convey the raw range of emotions displayed by Adele’s
deeply personal lyrics. Don’t let the powerhouse first single and opening track,
the nouveau Atlantic soul throwback “Rolling In The Deep”, nor its equally
kinetic following track “Rumor Has It” fool you on the outset. The remainder of this
record is largely an MOR snoozefest custom made for being heard over the
loudspeakers of the local Pathmark, hardly indicative of the fire in this girl’s
What’s most disappointing on 21 are
the four songs produced by Rick Rubin. It’s not a question of the bearded music
industry icon’s masterful ability to put together an amazing session band; and
the one he conjures up here is one of his best ensembles yet, one that features
Chavez’s Matt Sweeney and venerated gun-for-hire Smokey Hormel on guitars,
James Poyser of Roots/Soulquarians fame on keyboards, current Who bassist Pino
Palladino, Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo on banjo and the great David Campbell on
string arrangements. The limitless potential of that lineup, albeit arguably, is
thoroughly wasted on the material they perform on here – namely the maudlin,
uber-cheesy, Lite FM-destined Dan Wilson collaboration “Don’t You Remember” and
a pointless cover of The Cure’s overdone “Lovesong” (given the gravity of the
songs here, a jazzy, slow-burning rendition of “Last Dance”, the next cut off
the Disintegration LP, would have
been much, much cooler) – as the players seem to be totally phoning it in as a
collective. Having a powerhouse voice like Adele’s to back up, wouldn’t you
expect a group like that to administer a little bit more bite than what they
bring to the table here? And why on Earth wasn’t ?uestlove included in the mix?
His drumwork would have done wonders for a tune like “Set Fire To The Rain”.
Maybe for 25, Ms. Adkins
will hook up with somebody like Mark Ronson or Danger Mouse to give her voice a
real go-at-it. Or, even better, if Mr. Rubin could bring more of that Jay-Z’s
“99 Problems” than the Dixie Chicks’ “Not Ready To Make Nice” the next time out.
In a world where she has the likes of Lady Gaga and Ke$ha to contend with, more
of the swagger Adele brought at the beginning of this album would have helped make
21 a perfect 10.
DOWNLOAD: “Rolling In The
Deep”, “Rumor Has It”, “Set Fire To The Rain” RON