Adele’s 30 offers raw emotion, artistic bravery after 6-year hiatus

Caroline Culberson

Let the melodramatic and the brokenhearted rejoice. Adele’s hotly anticipated fourth studio album 30 arrived Nov. 19, providing cultural catharsis after six years of silence.

Throughout the 12-track collection, the singer-songwriter takes listeners through the stages of grief she experienced following her divorce, exploring clarity, bargaining, anger, rebound, overindulgence, and finally, making peace with her mistakes. An exploration of uncertainty and acceptance, the mature perspective present on 30 proves the artist’s growth from the know-it-all diva who dared the world to keep chasing pavements back in 2008.

The album begins and ends with fairy-tale string overtures dripping with Disney princess idealism, a vast departure from the purist, jazzy pop Adele fans know well. The opening track, a poignant tribute to Judy Garland, serves as a thesis statement for the album with lines like,  “I rebut all my rebuttals / No one knows what it’s like to be us.” Seemingly speaking to both her former husband and Garland, Adele narrates her uncomfortable relationship with the spotlight.

Throughout all of 30, Adele seems to simultaneously reject and cater to curating the perception of listeners. The songstress openly struggles with this tension, alternating between self-doubting lines like, “I had no time to choose what I chose to do / So go easy on me” and self-knowledge “Looking back, I don’t regret a thing / Yeah, I took some bad turns that I am owning.” By facing up to her insecurities and anxiety about audience perception, Adele creates a unique connection between herself and her listeners.

The chorus of “Cry Your Heart Out” pops with eye-rolling irony as Adele voices the advice people gave her after her divorce. However, the verses, raw and emotional, reveal the true isolation of her experience. Although strong lyrically, the Meghan Trainor-style kitsch of the backing vocals seem inauthentic in comparison to other tracks.

“Oh My God” serves as a testament to Adele’s pop supremacy. With hip-shaking percussion and layered vocals, listeners gain insight into Adele’s thoughts as she returns to hookups post-divorce. “Can I Get It” features a stripped-down, punchy guitar riff, a stomping bass line and an almost primal slide into a ’90s pop-rock. The flirtatious romp is undercut by emotional urgency, as Adele pleads with her lover to “put the pieces of me back together.”

The instant classic “To Be Loved” once again cements Adele as an exceptional vocalist. The vocal execution creates an almost reverent experience, a heart-wrenching plea to a higher power. The exultant celebration of the risk involved in love delves into the devastating lows and heart-soaring highs Adele always captures so gorgeously in her music.

Adele’s latest album 30 provides listeners with new, soul-cleansing songs to belt in the car or dominate at karaoke. But more than anything, the album reflects one woman’s personal odyssey — a brave leap of faith from a former musical perfectionist. Filled with intentional inconsistencies and bold choices, Adele’s creativity proves this album was worth the wait and its imperfections make it all the more relatable.

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