Fans expecting a bold move in a new direction on Adele's eagerly-anticipated third album 25, released today, may be disappointed. Any of the album's first ten songs could have easily ended up on 2011's mega-selling 21 album.
Yes, Adele again devotes a handful of songs to that dastardly ex who did her so wrong, he inspired the tearjerker "Someone Like You," but, listen closely and you'll hear a woman who's moved on from the woman-scorned, eff-you anthem "Rolling In the Deep."
The Adele on 25 is no longer furious. She's still mourning losses -- of love and, weirdly, of her youth -- but from a wiser, more stable vantage. The singer has said in countless promotional interviews that 25 marks the end of her early 20s, and a new maturity is evident.
The album also finds her beginning to explore her life at home with partner Simon Konecki and their son Angelo, 3. Adele has confirmed that one song, the soulful, gospel-tinged "Water Under The Bridge" is about Konecki, and fittingly, the lyrics find the panicked singer wondering when he'll turn out to be as awful as the "Rolling In The Deep" guy.
So, yes, while some fans may fuss because they've waited nearly five years to hear what musically sounds like 21: Part Two, the album's standout tracks make up for that sameness in tone.
Perhaps you've already heard the soaring first single "Hello," (which has broken all sorts of records for digital singles sales) and the show-stopping "When We Were Young," co-written with Canadian indie-rocker Tobias Jesso Jr.?
"All I Ask," co-written with Bruno Mars, is a melodic, minor-key piano ballad that stands out in an album full of piano ballads.
The sultry "I Miss You," steeped in sexy-ass drum beats, is tailor-made for the bedroom. "I want every single piece of you," Adele sings. Rowr!
"River Lea" is another gospel-tinged throwdown. Fueled by churning organs, the song, co-written with producer Danger Mouse, provides the perfect backdrop for Adele to go full-tilt diva.
The poppier "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)" lets in a bit of cheeky fun. A collaboration with Swedish producer Max Martin, known for his recent work with Taylor Swift, it's the one time we hear the flippant, pissed off Adele of 21. Problem is, that hint of the old Adele is so delicious, you end up craving more.
The album's final track, thecelebratory "Sweetest Devotion," signifies what comes next. The song, all about the joys motherhood has brought her, is a leap forward into an era after 25.