First listen?: No
Within the next 10 years, 21 by Adele will be at number 1 on this list. You can even quote me on that and come back to gloat when I’m massively wrong, but if she manages to achieve anything close to the success of this album with her much anticipated follow up I think she could do it. I’ve spoken a lot on this blog about Adele over the years, but I’ve never actually discussed 21 in detail. I notably left it off my Best Album of 2011 list, which was my honest opinion at the time. In the years since though, maybe I’ve just given up trying to fight off such a blatantly brilliant package of music. Emotional feels like an understatement, it’s hard to think of another singer in the last decade who has the same ability to lay everything out in the open like Adele does. It’s not even just a case of saying, oh she’s a bit pissed off in this song, look now shes crying, in a sort of binary Happy/Sad way. There’s a range of emotions in every one of these 11 songs, something that turns a belter of a song like Set Fire to the Rain from a big chorus sang well into a memorable moment of pop music. It’s what sets her apart from the wannabes we’ve seen in the years since 21’s reign of the album chart. Show me a song where Sam Smith or Emeli Sande made you actually feel something. That’s what Adele does on 21. That’s what Adele does with Someone Like You, a song that literally brought the nation to tears. The now legendary Brits performance is one of the many reasons why 21 is the only album released after 2010 to be in this list, never mind in the top 5. Stripped back to piano and vocal she’s incredible, put a full band behind her with a stomping drumline and she’s incredible. The fact that Rolling in the Deep and Someone Like You were in the top 5 at the same time (Both 21 and debut album 19 doing the same on the album chart too) is bonkers to begin with, but considering how drastically different the songs are it makes it even more impressive. So far I’ve only mentioned the three major singles from 21, which wasn’t my intention, but it is telling that the three best tracks were released. Turning Tables is another epic vocal, while Rumour Has It continues the aggressive tone of Rolling in the Deep. Lovesong and Take It All are nice, but not amazing and both fall victim to being placed before Someone Like You, which kind of cancels out any of the tearful ballads that precede it. Personal highlights of mine include Don’t You Remember and He Won’t Go, which is about as modern RnB as the album gets. 21 is an extremely good album, one that I don’t think I gave enough credit to on release. Its place on list may seem totally obvious, but given that it was only released 4 years ago and is on its way into the top 3 biggest sellers of all time is truly is impressive.
Will I listen again?: I doubt anyone could avoid 21 for the rest of their life.
Best Track: Set Fire to the Rain is obviously the greatest moment here.