After having listened to 30 about six times over, I can honestly say this is one of the most honest, emotionally expressive, and beautiful albums of 2021. We haven’t seen or heard from Adele since she released 25 in November of 2015, and after hearing of her recent divorce, we knew something big was on the way.
Adele brought the world what they’d been waiting for. Adele’s 30 was finally released on November 19th, 2021, after facing delays due to the pandemic. 30 quickly rose to worldwide success, topping the charts in 19 countries, and is the first album in over a year to sell 1M copies in the US. The Official Charts Company state that in the UK, 30 scored the biggest first-week sales for an album since Ed Sheeran’s ‘÷’, as well as the biggest opener for a female solo album since her last album, 25, in 2015.
In her interview with Zane Lowe for Apple Music, Adele shares that she finally felt ready to share her truth and let her emotions flow. She’s finally in the right headspace to be vulnerable again. Adele confirms that 30 is a chronological timeline through the entire experience.
30 is more than just a breakup album. It reveals the genuine hurt, shame and longing faced by a woman coming to terms with her past traumas, finding her coveted independence, and trying to communicate her emotional pain to her son. Adele transforms her frequent depressive spirals into a poignant, engaging, emotive masterpiece.
Read on to find out more about the album.
The opening track, Strangers By Nature, features Adele’s graceful, emotional lyrics accompanied by melancholy electric piano chords and woeful strings. Adele gained inspiration for the track after watching ‘Judy’ starring Renée Zellweger and wondered why nobody wrote songs like Judy Garland anymore. In the first line, Adele takes flowers to the cemetery of her own heart and continues to weave in and out of the instrumental with more poetic words. The evocative instrumental cradles her heart-breaking lyrics in a warm, dreamlike aura. Adele concludes Strangers By Nature by singing the melody of ‘All I Ask’ from her album 25, acting as a bridge between the two records. At the end, Adele says, ‘Alright then, I’m Ready’, as it fades into track two.
Starting with classic piano chords reminiscent of Adele’s previous work, Easy On Me gives us a fresh dose of nostalgia. Adele’s voice pierces through the piano chords as she sings her compelling lyrics, detailing her separation from her ex-husband, Simon Konecki. In Adam Neely’s video he breaks down how Adele uses ‘pitch as an expressive device’ on the chorus of Easy On Me. Her vocals weren’t auto tuned in the way we’re used to hearing in modern Pop music, which ultimately results in a more expressive, more ‘human’ vocal performance.
My Little Love, the reverberant third track, juxtaposes the previous by introducing mellow, jazzy chords enveloping a deep, soulful vocal performance from Adele. The song is interlaced with real voice notes of Adele confessing her feelings to her 9-year-old son, Angelo. She began voice recording her feelings and conversations with her son after her therapist suggested it would help reduce her anxiety attacks. When approaching heavy topics with her son, she worried that she talked to him like an adult. Listening back to her voice recordings stopped her from spiralling and helped her realise she never said anything wrong. You can hear that in My Little Love, Adele answers her son’s curious questions as transparently as possible, whilst remaining respectful to his youthful innocence. The track paints a picture of longing, loneliness, shame, and heartbreak – a truly moving performance.
Track four, Cry Your Heart Out, presents an obvious change of pace.Adele states in the Zane Lowe interview that the lyrics are meant to make fun of herself. ‘If you want to listen to the lyrics, it’s clear that it’s about depression. But if you don’t want to, it’s like a little vibe,’ she explains. The upbeat, joyful bop presents a stark contrast to her sinister lyrics. The track’s happy chords bounce up and down whilst Adele sings about her utter hopelessness. She remembers the depths of her depression, where she couldn’t stop crying and felt as if the world had ended. Her friends would laugh and tell her that ‘your world’ had ended, not ‘the world’ – reminding her that the phase will pass.
The next few tracks, in relation to the timeline of events, act as a journey through various phases of her divorce. Track five, Oh My God reflects the internal conflicts Adele faces due to her need to put herself first. Followed by track six, Can I Get It, which reflects her desire to be in a real relationship rather than just having casual sex – which is what she quickly realised the LA dating scene was like. She left her relationship to go forwards, not backwards.
In her interview with Rolling Stone, I Drink Wine was described by Adele as a song about ‘shredding one’s ego’. She hopes to get over herself and stop pretending to be somebody else. She also mentions that she puts on different characters while recording the backing vocals to give the song a sarcastic, Sixties vibe.
Track eight, All Night Parking gives serious Lo-Fi vibes. The lyrics describe her brief relationship after her divorce – falling for someone new. Followed by Woman Like Me, a song about the end of Adele’s relationship where she accuses her ex of being lazy, complacent, and insecure. This is the only track Adele wrote when she felt angry about her divorce. Track ten, Hold On, features the prominent lyric ‘sometimes loneliness is the only rest that we get’ and carries a theme of hope and growth throughout. The end of the song features a choir of her close friends singing ‘Just hold on’.
Adele posted a heartfelt sung version of the penultimate track, To Be Loved, on Instagram, two days before the album’s release. It’s a powerful, slow-piano song about her mistakes, heartbreak, and sacrifices. She tells Zane Lowe that she refuses to perform it or even listen to it because it’s too emotional for her. Maybe when her son Angelo is 30, she will perform it to him.
Love Is A Game, the final song on the album, is described by Vogue as ‘whimsical and wall-of-sound retro’. It sounds like the outro music to a movie. This track is an anthem to her internal battle of falling in love and preferring life alone – ‘Love is a game for fools to play’. Many of us realised that the song pays respect to Love Is A Losing Game by Amy Winehouse, who is one of Adele’s biggest inspirations. Adele ensures that ‘another defeat’ would be ‘the ending of me’, she ends the album by confessing her fears of ever falling in love again.
Adele, once again, captured her strong feelings of heartbreak, longing and sadness into a beautiful album that the whole world can relate to. Her heart wrenching vocal performances pierce through the distinct instrumentals with unequivocally transparent and emotional lyrics – 30 is Adele’s most ambitious work so far.
The Making of 30
For anyone interested in the meaning behind 30, I would recommend checking out Adele’s interview with Zane Lowe, as previously mentioned. Below I have gathered some of Adele’s opinions discussed in the interview – on her experience, how the album came to be, and modern pop music in general. Read on to find out more!
When she was going through her divorce, she would act as if everything was fine to protect her son. When he went to bed, it would all come out. Her son said to her, ‘I can’t see you’, and it made her realise she was acting like a ghost. She tells his side of the story through herself. Adele’s own divorce ‘humanised’ her parent’s divorce for her.
Adele fell back in love with her form of therapy, music – something more powerful and overwhelming than herself. She likes to go to a studio because it’s usually a basement, no windows, nobody can get hold of her. She felt she had a lot to get out of her system. Nobody would have known she wrote the record, but she decided to play the album to a few people – including her friend whose Mum died when he was 15. He burst into tears, claiming that he never thought about who his mum was other than being his mum.
That’s why Adele continued with writing and releasing 30. She loves her son, Angelo, more than anything. Her life revolves around him and feels the heaviness of guilt and shame on her son’s behalf for breaking the family. She wants him to know she has a lot going on other than him, things that started before he was born, and things that will continue when he finally leaves the nest. Adele wishes she had a record like that when she was young, to help forgive her parents. 30, if not for Adele herself, was written for her son.
She really didn’t like who she was. She didn’t open her eyes, see what was happening at the time, or enjoy the world around her. Adele really believes that some of the songs on the album could help people, change their lives. And songs like ‘Hold On’ could save people’s lives.
Adele loves being an artist, but hates being a celebrity. Press would write about her divorce like they knew the story. This album is her taking back her narrative. She believes that nowadays, there is no expectation of sincerity left in artists. To be an artist, ‘it comes from deep within us’, and she explains that music is just ‘a transaction’ now. 30 is an important album for other artists to hear, those that are being encouraged not to value their own art. Adele knows many artists that feel pressure to make everything they create into something massive and wants to remind them that they can ‘write from their stomach if they want’.
Have you listened to 30 yet? If so, what do you think?
Edie is a musician that composes and produces her own tracks alongside music for games. She also works as a freelance graphic artist, and learns about socio-cultural issues and current affairs in her spare time.