Adele’s “30” is her best and most personal record

Jan. 10, 2022, 7:58 p.m.

After three legendary albums that taught people how to feel, love and cry, English singer and songwriter Adele dropped her most personal album yet: “30.” The album does not reflect the expected perspective of heartbreak; instead, Adele tells the story of how she was reborn after getting a divorce and becoming a single mom. 

“This is my album,” the artist said in a Vogue interview.

As you listen to “30,” I want to highlight an important point: Please listen to the album in the intentional order the artist created. This practice will allow you to fully immerse yourself in the most satisfying emotional heartbreak story you perhaps have ever heard.

“We don’t create albums with so much care and thought into our track listing for no reason. Our art tells a story and our stories should be listened to as we intended,” Adele explained to Variety Magazine.

While “Strangers By Nature” may not be the best track to lead the album, as it does not contain Adele’s well-known singing style, it prepares everyone for the heartbreaking story that is reflected in the rest of the album. Co-produced by Oscar-winning film composer Ludwig Göransson, the song features the harmony of a melancholic church, vintage 50s musical and Disney-like tunes. While listening to the track, I noticed that at some points her voice sounds just like the brilliant late Amy Winehouse, a figure Adele mentions as the reason she started her career.

“Easy On Me” has a powerful first impression which reminds us of Adele’s previous albums, but we know that it is still not her old self. While listening to it, I got the sense that Adele feels guilty of her life choices but accepts that she was too young and instead chooses to embrace her past. Now, the only thing she feels like she can get is forgiveness.

I cried when I heard “My Little Love” for the first time. Adele’s voice note while explaining her loneliness was heartbreaking and hard to listen to. Adele is a very private person, especially with her son, Angelo, and the fact that she put the voice note with her son in “My Little Love” makes the track the most personal one on the album. It’s amazingly genuine, brave and quite powerful. 

Despite its tragic name, “Cry Your Heart Out” is not a melancholic song. In fact, it actually feels reggae. With “Oh My God,” we see that Adele starts to feel confident about herself and her love life again despite the wrangling of internal conflict. With the composition of R&B sounds, dance-pop and poetic lyrics, it is refreshing. 

“Can I Get It” reminds me of the 2010s music style with the stomp-heavy beat and running whistle-tone? It’s too much like Ed Sheeran, far from what Adele genuinely is. Perhaps Adele wanted to try a new style with something she seems like she has never done before. But “Can I Get It” didn’t feel like Adele at all and I prefer her own style rather than this 2010s musical style.

Adele leaves the brisk dance-pop tunes and returns to her own style with “I Drink Wine.” The hopeful background piano and gospel vocals reminded me of an Elton John barroom singalong. With “All Night Parking (with Erroll Garner) Interlude,” Adele sings fresh lyrics over a legendary vintage Garner jazz piano instrumental harmonized with trumpet and violin. The song gives Amy Winehouse vibes, and Adele easily pulled it off.  

The last four songs in the album focus on Adele’s softer vocals with less beat and more melancholic, steady instruments. “Woman Like Me” expresses her disappointment and unfulfilled expectations towards her lover for not trying enough and realizing her own priorities. After her divorce, all the things she heard about self-loving and healing are in “Hold On.” Although it has great lyrics that sound like a prayer, it pales in comparison to the album’s other tracks.

“To Be Loved” is probably Adele’s best operatic vocal yet. Adele has said on the Spout podcast that she’s “only really sung it a few times and definitely can’t even really listen to it without getting emotional.” The song revisits a devastating and heartbreaking time of her life and with her son, and it contains strong emotions. 

In “Love Is A Game,” Adele takes a stand against love, and after all the things she has been through, can you blame her? Her voice sounds better than ever and uses so much of her range. She ends the album with a cynical yet emotional track, making it clear that she is over her ex and doesn’t need him or anyone. Because it looks like after her rough divorce, lust and love became just a game for her.

Throughout the album, I experienced the visceral emotions that Adele endured of breaking down, crying, questioning myself and becoming confident — yes, because she really has that power over me just from singing her heart out. Back in the day, when journalists used teletypes, “-30-” was the mark they used for indicating the end of a story. Adele’s reason to name her album “30” might not be this; however, we all know that “30” is the end of an era and Adele’s fresh start.

Aslıhan Alp is a high schooler writing as part of The Daily’s Summer Journalism Workshop. Contact them at workshop 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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