The first track from Adele’s much expected new album is out. It’s a big ballad, but a superior example of its kind
Rumours have been circulating about Adele’s third album for months now: at one stage, the erroneous belief that 25 was due to be released in mid-September apparently led a selection of record labels to frantically change the release dates of their own forthcoming big albums lest they ended up trying to compete with it in the charts. But perhaps the most striking thing about the gossip is the sheer eclecticism of the supporting cast reported to be involved in the follow-up to the biggest-selling album of the 21st century. You might expect it to feature her longstanding producer Paul Epworth and blue-chip songwriters-for-hire Max Martin and Ryan Tedder – the latter co-wrote 21’s Turning Tables and Rumour Has It – but further down the list, things got more intriguing: Pharrell Williams, producer Danger Mouse, acclaimed Canadian singer-songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr, Damon Albarn and, most improbably, Phil Collins were all reputed to have been involved. Understandably, this provoked a degree of speculation about what an album that somehow finds room for all of them might sound like, particularly given that the artist at its centre clearly has carte blanche to do what she likes: who’s going to argue with someone whose last album sold 30m copies?
Albarn was recently roundly criticized as churlish for suggesting that, far from a radical departure, 25 was going to be “very middle-of-the-road”. On the evidence of Hello, he had a point. It’s the sound of someone understandably declining to fix something that wasn’t broken: Hello could have been on 21, which tells you pretty much everything you need to know about its sound and its quality. It’s precisely the kind of lovelorn epic ballad that made Adele one of the biggest stars in the world. It even comes complete with a video that features that classic signifier of grandiose musical heartbreak, the singer belting it out while being tousled by a wind machine.adele-25-album-jide-salu
Anyone disappointed that Adele hasn’t returned bearing an Albarn collaboration featuring Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen, his old mates from the Chinese opera and the Yacouba Sissoko Band can console themselves a little with the thought that Hello is a superior example of type, built to stand out from the vast tranches of similarly-minded stuff on Radios 1 and 2. Adele sounds great: she sells the song without over-singing it, leaving the melismatic vocal fireworks to the inevitable spate of X Factor cover versions. The opening is striking – it’s quite witty to open your first album for five years with the words “Hello, it’s me” – and the chorus sticks after one listen.
You rather get the feeling the lyrics might be intended as introduction to the theme of the album as a whole. Having understandably eschewed the domestic contentment that’s occupied her of late as a topic – history tells us that no one, not even Stevie Wonder, could write a song about the joy of being a new parent without making people feel nauseous – it seems 25 is going to be largely concerned with the subject of picking over the past and reconciling yourself to the failure of an old relationship. Its vast commerical success is a forgone conclusion, as evidenced by the fact that no one – not even One Direction or Justin Bieber – will dare to release their album the same week. But Hello underlines what we already know: it’s clearly going to be enormous.
Alexis Petridis,The Guardian.