So there we have it, Adele is back like “Where dem Grammys at?”
The London born singer is a pop phenomenon. She’s already got so many of the chunky gold awards she probably uses them to prop the doors of her third bathroom open. Her last record shifted so many copies that it was singlehandedly responsible for about 79% of the music industry’s entire sales for the year, ended Lady Gaga’s career and sent the genetically engineered pop cyborg Taylor Swift back to the drawing board with a rolodex of the most expensive songwriters that money can buy.
She inspired endless terrible karaoke covers on TV talent shows whose competitors seem to confuse having the lung power of a blue whale for emotional authenticity. Taylor may have convinced Apple to roll back their Dickensian policies on paying musicians but Adele could probably get them to dig up Steve Jobs’s corpse and let her take it on tour, so powerful is her position in the modern music industry.
There’s just one catch though: Adele is dead boring. With lyrical missives that resemble the saccharine serifs you get inside a box of chocolates around Valentine’s Day, her lyrical contributions make Hallmark Cards look like Dylan Thomas. They make football chants look like Shakespearean sonnets. The dispatches from the front line of her heart would make Sylvia Plath reach for the oven. Sure in a time when your typical pop song focuses on drinking, dancing and waving your dick at scantily clad models, some sepia toned balladry is briefly refreshing, but none of this excuses the fact that the world’s biggest pop superstar is duller than an afternoon in a Dulux factory.
Here’s some Poetry 101 for you: “Set Fire to the Rain” and ‘Rolling in the Deep” are not elegant metaphors. They literally make no sense. Adele’s lyrics are a series of nonsense phrases strung together by our heroine and a variety of songwriting gonks for hire including Ryan Tedder, a man who by dint of writing Bleeding Love for Leona Lewis has permanently earned himself a place in whatever circle of Dante’s hell the minions of Simon Cowell will eventually find themselves condemned to, forced to self-flagellate himself for all time under the gaze of the high-trousered music industry Satan himself.
The only good songs she’s done are ‘Someone Like You’ which is fine if you’re standards for music only extend as far as shit your grandad can slow dance to at an obscure cousin’s wedding and ‘Skyfall’, but even that’s cos we all secretly know that Bond themes are only good when belted out by someone who could probably play a passable Valkyrie (sorry Chris Cornell, Jack White et al, not sorry Madonna).
Sure Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin didn’t write every word they sang (and even those they did are not immune to the odd lyrical clunker) but they’d seen a hell of a lot of life. The worst thing that probably happens to Adele on a regular basis is the Monet painting over the fireplace being a bit crooked and, oh yes, paying her taxes.
“I’m mortified to have to pay 50%! [While] I use the NHS, I can’t use public transport any more. Trains are always late, most state schools are shit, and I’ve gotta give you, like, four million quid – are you having a laugh? When I got my tax bill in from [the album] 19, I was ready to go and buy a gun and randomly open fire” – the voice of the people indeed.
Perhaps she’s improved in the four year gap between albums? Let’s do some lyrical analysis.
Hooking up with Greg Kurstin, the indie pop mastermind behind bangers such as Dido’s fourth album and that Lily Allen record we have to pretend wasn’t racist (ok he did produce Tegan & Sara and Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger, which is a banger, but seriously, fucking Dido?) Adele’s comeback single is called ‘Hello’ and you’ll definitely already have heard it/been drowned under fucking hundreds of shit memes about flipphones and Lionel Richie.
The verses are pretty standard heartbroken guff but then we reach the chorus:
“Hello from the outside / At least I can say that I’ve tried / To tell you I’m sorry for breaking your heart / But it don’t matter, it clearly doesn’t tear you apart.”
Read those words a few times. Quite aside from the fact that she seems to be outside this unfortunate ex-partner’s house, all that the saviour of populist pop has to tell us is that she’s sad that she broke his heart. In a three year hiatus, the best Adele can come up with is less a lyrical clusterbomb of emotional intensity and poetic grace, and more the sentiment of a mediocre mid-2000s romcom. And 30 million people think she’s the voice of a generation.
It’s hard to be truly angry at what seems to be a relatively level headed, working class girl done good but the truly great vocalists: Nina Simone, Janis Joplin, Johnny Cash sparkled with life, turning whatever their larynxes touched into a microcosm of some part of the human spirit. Adele makes me wish someone would change the channel. Maybe I’m just jealous I never got a flip phone.
[Max Sefton – @MaxSefton]