Six years subsequent to her sensational album, “25,” Adele Laurie Blue Adkins has returned to center stage with an arsenal of deeply vulnerable, complex, and dangerous songs. The long-anticipated ‘divorce album’ is overflowing with heartbreak, self-reflection, and a rich gospel voice like we have never heard before.
The only anticipated detail absent from “30” is a revenge song—the track that calls out the scorned ex-lover (think Ariana Grande’s “Thank U Next” or Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” off her “21” album).
Instead, “30” is Adele’s reconciliation with herself.
In an interview with Zane Lowe, Adele shared that she was hesitant to release “30,” as it is her “most personal album yet.” Listeners of “30” will find themselves wiping away tears after “My Little Love,” an intimate track showcasing Adele’s explanation of her divorce to her child. “Mommy’s been having a lot of big feelings lately,” Adele says in a bedtime heart-to-heart with her son, Angelo.
Following Adele’s deep-seated exchange with her son, “Cry Your Heart Out,” a perfectly timed track about owning up to one’s choices and moving through them gracefully plays. “Cry your heart out / clean your face / when you’re in doubt / go at your own pace.” The lyrics prove Adele’s resilience in jumping back into life, despite distressing heartbreak.
“I Drink Wine,” a title that serves Adele’s sincere nature, pays homage to ego-death (getting real and over oneself). “Why am I obsessing about the things I can’t control? / Why am I seeking approval from people I don’t even know?” The track’s gospel undertones met with Adele’s overwhelming belts make for a soulful take-me-to-church experience. The track quietly fades into the interlude, “All Night Parking,” which displays Adele’s sultry voice accompanied by the enchanting key playing of the late Erroll Garner.
Charmed by the sensuality of the album’s interlude, listeners are instantly met with “Woman Like Me,” the closest track to a ‘revenge song’ we hear, despite it not being about Adele’s ex-husband. The track portrays a post-divorce relationship with a man who was too sluggish and passive for Adele’s liking. “Complacency is the worst trait to have / are you crazy? / You ain’t ever had a woman like me.”
The third to last song of the album, “Hold On,” is seemingly the passionate and emotive climax that every Adele fan anticipates; yet, that honor is reserved for “To Be Loved,” a song that can only be described as an unadulterated howl of agony. Listeners will be met with goosebumps within the first ten seconds of the track, as we hear a pianist play down the scales until Adele’s haunting intro is heard; “I built a house for a love to grow / I was so young that it was hard to know.” “To Be Loved” ends with a vocal fireworks performance that forces listeners to remember why they fell in love with Adele in the first place: she is unapologetically human. Adele owns the fact that she didn’t show up sometimes, yet she pleads for grace because she did everything she could with her best intentions in mind.
After bombarding listeners with an emotional rollercoaster that will no doubt be placed on the top shelf next to “Someone Like You” from “21” and “When We Were Young” from “25,” Adele ends “30” with a larger-than-life track, “Love is a Game.”
Adele has always been the queen of heartbreak, and “30” has proven just how much of a multi-dimensional, emotionally intelligent artist she truly is. Adele promised her son, Angelo, that their family would always stay together. This is what makes “30” so special; it’s not just a divorce album—it displays multi-faceted wounds formed from letting one’s child down, losing the love of one’s life, trying in love and failing in love, and all the bruises endured from finding oneself.
Listeners will hear the transcendent agony, heartbreak, and broken promise in Adele’s voice long before they’ll begin to comprehend the wrenching lyrics. “30” won’t show you—it will teach you that not everything works out as it is meant to.
Yet, if there is one thing we can all learn from Adele, what matters most is how we pick ourselves up and keep moving.