By Maggie Doherty
If you haven't yet heard of Adele, emerge from the rock you've been living under and discover one of the greatest voices of our generation. The 22-year-old British songstress has already established herself as a vocal phenomenon and is leaps and bounds above her pop princess peers, with her 2008 debut album 19. Now, ready to tackle mainstream, her newly released album 21 will only solidify her position among the best out there right now.
The first track and single "Rolling in the Deep," currently number 41 on the Billboard Hot 100, has been popping up in movie trailers ("Number Four" starring Glee's Diana Agron) and radio stations for several weeks. The attention-grabber track, "Rollingin the Deep" features a beat-driven a cappella intro showcasing Adele's bluesy, pitch perfect vocals. Her signature, clear-as-a-bell wail dominates the refrain in all its gospel glory. This song alone will without a doubt establish her as an American household name - and rightfully so.
Not every track is a surefire pop song. Some of them border on gospel-soul ("I'll Be Waiting," "Take It All,) and some touch on 60s inspired Phil Spektor chants ("Rumor Has It," "He Won't Go"). She also reminds us of why she burst onto the scene in the first place, with pieces hailing from 19's "Hometown Glory"–like "Turning Tables" and the beautiful second single "Someone Like You," with her voice soaring over a somber piano backdrop, crooning about painstaking heartbreak.
Her cover of The Cure's "Lovesong" is an interesting move, with a sleepy bossa nova interpretation miles away from the 80s Goth Rock vibe of the original. The track brings the breathy depth that Adele's vocals offer, but still retains the essence of the original, innocent simplicity.
21 proves that Adele's songwriting efforts do not pigeonhole her into one genre, whether it's the bluesy power ballad "One and Only," her modern day version of Aretha Franklin's "Natural Woman," or "I Found a Boy," accompanied by a single electric guitar, reminiscent of John Mayer's "I'm Gonna Find Another You"–a coffeehouse singer-songwriter's dream. She meshes it all together, making the appeal of her voice to the masses indisputable.
It's unusual for a sophomore album to surpass the success of the debut, but Adele has certainly achieved that feat and more with 21. Now that's she's creeping up on the international scene, the next stop is an American tour. Something tells me that, unlike the big names in front of her on the Billboard charts, she'll be even better live.