The most obvious criticism that you can level at Adele’s 25 is that it plays it safe. If you were expecting some sort of EDM treatment on her pop-oriented torch ballads, get ready to be disappointed. The closest any song comes to that is the slightly-poppier “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” which is produced by Taylor Swift/Britney Spears hit-maker Max Martin.
In fact, there are a lot of hit-makers involved with 25, but unless you’re a pop-music aficionado, you probably won’t notice. Some of the songwriting and production team behind the scenes are among the industry’s hottest and most prolific, including Paul Epworth, Greg Kurstin, Ryan Tedder, Linda Perry, Danger Mouse and Bruno Mars just to name a few. Adele’s consistency alongside such varied collaborators is a remarkable achievement—and a testament to the strength of her vision and voice.
Production details aside, lyrically, 25 focuses on reconciliation and growing older rather than the heartbreak-oriented woes of 2011’s 21. The album opener and lead single “Hello” follows this theme and sets the tone for what continues throughout the album.
Like “Hello”, “When We Were Young” is also about reconnecting with someone from the past, and is the obvious next single from the album.
I was so scared to face my fears
Cause nobody told me that you’d be here
And I swore you moved overseas
That’s what you said, when you left me
Adele“When We Were Young”
Other highlights include the stripped-down, gentle guitar ballad “Million Years Ago” and “Sweetest Devotion.”
Appropriately, “Sweetest Devotion” is the closing track of the standard edition of 25. In 21, the lonely and forlorn “Someone Like You” closed that record, but this time around she sings of having found her one true love: “And there is something about the way you love me / That finally feels like home.”
That’s exactly how 25 feels and sounds in its entirety: like home.