Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Almost a year ago I got hold of Adele's new album and wrote about how good it was. I'm not a sucker for overly melodramatic, sappy songs but somehow her voice and her unorthodox music caught me. Yes, I said unorthodox, because while sappy love songs were once the bread and butter of the music industry, for the past decade it has been considered somewhat passé. Chart-toppers of the new millennium are upbeat, catchy tunes full of sexual euphemisms repeated over and over again during the course of the songs. The lyrical poverty and lack of vocabulary are generally compensated with overbearing bass sounds and synthesized electronic noises hinged on well-known riffs stolen from oldies. They call it sampling, I call it easy money. Why bother coming up with new melodies if you can rehash old ones and distort them to make them sound fresh again? Yes, Will-I-Am, I'm talking to you.

So when Adele came in, she caught people off-guard. Not a size zero, no cheap publicity stunts and quirky fashion sense à la Lady Gaga, no sexual innuendos in her lyrics and no overblown marketing. Just simple love songs written from a broken heart and her powerhouse voice that made everybody stop and say, "I missed this music. It has soul."

21 is a gorgeous record. Flawless execution of every song. A normal album would have 3 good singles and 7 filler songs to make it a whole. 21 has 17 perfectly good songs, all potential chart toppers. One and Only has the same top-notch production quality as Someone Like You, and Turning Tables is just as good as Set Fire To The Rain. These days, not many albums have that quality.

Another great thing about 21 is its congruity. The album encapsulates a tragic love story and all the songs are related to one another. It might sound trivial, but I like an album with a coherent storyline. Without it, an album is just confusing. Take Rihanna's latest album Loud for example. She sings about her love for sadomasochism in S&M, and then about a rape victim killing her rapist in Man Down before languishing about an unrequited love in California King Bed. All in the same album. While all of those are relatively good songs (the keyword here is 'relatively' because while I'm not an advocate of Rihanna's music, I have to agree her songs are pretty catchy), they don't have anything to do with one another. What gives?

I just realized that this post about Adele is starting to look like a sad excuse to hate on Will-I-Am, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and to a certain extent, all of today's music listeners whose taste in music is questionable. But seriously, there's a reason why Adele is such a huge success. She is just a simple reminder to people that there was a time when artistes were valued by their pure, unadulterated talent and that we could be entertained simply by a singer with a beautiful voice accompanied only by a piano.

Adele brings us back to that moment in time when listening to music also means appreciating the lyrics, and that sex was something people do behind closed doors and doesn't need to be advertised on top of the Billboard charts.


Sir Pök Déng said...

"I wonna mek lerv na na na na...

I wonna mek lerve na na naa na!"

Very inspiring lyric.

WP said...

I agree about her bringing good music with good lyrics back. But I found listening to her whole album a little too...depressing. Maybe because, like you say, the songs are all part of one tragic love story.

I don't feel that all the songs in an album have to be about the same me every song in an album can be viewed as a whole story in itself. An album, to me, would be a compilation of short stories, instead of a novel.

NIZAM said...

Good music with a good lyrics. I just love whatever music can bring me feel enjoy, relax. And I choose British music rather than US.

Kahuna said...

sir pok deng: very inspiring indeed. Shakespearean quality.

wee pin: In her album you get a fast track for every 2 or 3 songs, and I find that very clever as it cuts the sadness just when it's starting to become overwhelming.

I'm not saying the songs in an album need to be about the same thing. I just think they need to complement each other. They can be different but still have that one binding theme that makes the album have sense. But I do agree it can easily get tiring if you don't do it right. For me, Adele got it right with this one.

NIZAM: I have no country preference when it comes to music. As long as it's good, I'll take it.

Anonymous said...

When one listens to Adele's 21, it's like listening to a voice deep down pleading impassionately; and it tugs your senses 'coz you have been there and done that and got badly burnt. And in a strange primal sense, we can relate to her songs 'coz it acknowledges our own brokenness.