This is no bathroom stall breakdown in the middle of family dinner when your parents ask if your boyfriend will be joining them. This is no hopeless, helpless, setting-fire-to-everything kind of album. This is no declaration of broken hearts, no bottom of the well wallowing, and certainly no last resort. Beginning in the rough valleys of “First Love” and “Hometown Glory,” 19 promised the world a rising icon. Following that came atrocious heartbreak and monumental success as Adele bled and showed the world her battle wounds in 21. After years of silence and minimal public appearance, she returns to say “Hello” in 25, forever changing how we explore love and showing us all the nitty gritty mistakes she made along the way.
Adele’s 25 stands out against not only the music of this decade but also the two albums she previously recorded—in almost every single way. According to Nielsen Music, in only the first week 25 sold 3.38 million copies, demolishing the record set by NSYNC’s 2000 No Strings Attached, which sold 2.4 million copies its first week. Already 25 has become the top-selling album this year, surpassing Taylor Swift’s 1989. Aside from record-setting, Adele’s new album also fortifies the piano and the guitar as the spine of quality music; you will not find many techno beats and supersonic sounds in 25 as Adele reflects on the past couple years of her life. These elements underscore the power of soul, story-telling, and sincerity undefined in popular music.
Out of necessity, Adele reintroduces herself to the world with “Hello,” and while this has given the meme community a year of material, this second introduction should not be overlooked. She is a new Adele, this is a new album, and without that understanding we can’t appreciate 25 fully. The second song “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” throws us the first curveball when in the first second Adele says, “Just the guitar,” and that is all she needs for a song that sets the tone of emotional strength through forgiveness and acceptance, which she has just realized herself. The album continues and we encounter songs like “Remedy” and “Water Under the Bridge” that we expect to be “Someone Like You” part two but by the end of them we’re not in tears, but rather we’re rejoicing over the choices we’ve made and the bridges we’ve burned.
While the first half of the album warns us that this is a stronger, happier Adele, the last four songs explain everything. “Love in the Dark” acknowledges that while Adele’s past has torn her apart, she can move on because she admits “I don’t love you anymore.” But it’s been years, and grieving over heartbreak, achieving international fame, and raising a child has proved that Adele’s old life of 19 regretfully feels like a “Million Years Ago.” Everything up to this point in 25 reflects on the time that has passed, how we’ve spent our time and how we’ve wasted it, disappointment and nostalgia mix with finite decisions and forgiveness.
The concluding song of 25 brings us to the light at the end of the tunnel we’ve been walking through with Adele. The upbeat, ready-to-try-and-love-again feeling of “Sweetest Devotion” encourages the optimistic to be hopeful in serendipity and eager to pluck the sweetest apple from the tree. With this, the void between 21 and 25 is justified. Today, Adele is able to deliver stunning vocals, surpassing the notes that we remembered she could hit with minimal accompaniment and a wealth of wisdom and reflection we are fortunate to tap into. 25 promises longevity as the most-inspiring and sincere album this century leaving little room for immature tunes and one-hit wonders.