21


Band: Adele
Album: 21
Best song: Half the album is great. “He Won’t Go” is my current favorite, but my favorites change daily.
Worst song: The other half is just OK.

So much of this space is devoted to the conflict I have in aging, my self image and my cultural tastes, so it will come as very little surprise that I’m going down that road once again. For the most part, I stick toward (not to, but toward) the margins of mass appeal popular culture.

I say “toward” for many reasons — the lack of a shared pop culture, the blurring of the indie/mainstream lines, my own cowardice in truly trusting experimental stuff, etc. — but my general eschewing of the most mainstream of culture makes it so that I miss things. Most of the time, these things are generally shitty — Two and Half Men sucks, Transformers movies are terrible, that “Friday” song is useless, Twilight reads like it was written by a high school kid, etc. — and I don’t need to consume them. Sometimes, though, something insanely popular is really, truly good and I don’t care about it.

Or I get to it about a year too late.

So it is with Adele, the British soul singer who has, essentially, taken the world by storm. It’s not to say that I completely missed her rise; I have a pair of ears and her music is played in ads and such. With that said, I never really cared about her records and had no real need to hear it. So, this past this week, I decided to pick her records up and listen to them a bit.

I’m, obviously, not going to break any new ground in saying that Adele has an amazingly strong voice. Her second record, 21 is far better than 19 as the songs are more strongly-written. Nevertheless, she’s less of a songwriter than she is a singer, which is what makes 21 so spotty.

Nevertheless, the notion of “Everyone with a heart and an iTunes account does it” about crying and listening to Adele is a truism. Indeed, “Someone Like You” is a wonderfully stark song, entirely based on Adele’s considerable pipes. The theme is the same as the rest of the record: a breakup has occurred and Adele is seeking revenge. “Rolling in the Deep” plows the same ground, as does “Rumor Has It,” “Set Fire to the Rain” and “He Won’t Go.” All of the songs are superlative in their rollicking ability to empower the protagonist of the song, making the listener empowered by inserting her/himself into the storyline.

It’s not a wide span, by any means. The furthest she moves outside is a cover (superior to the original, I’d say ) of the Cure’s “Lovesong.” A more straightforward — aka not a breakup song — love song, Adele’s tenderness actually comes through.

Adele is a wonderful singer and is a completely charming individual, as evidenced by her

I like that she really doesn’t care what other people think about her (but, isn’t, like, insane. Because the “I don’t care what other people think” thing can really be dangerous). She still fits within our idea of what’s interesting, while still being pretty mainstream.

This isn’t a criticism, as I really do like the way she presents herself. There aren’t enough female pop stars who actually are out there, powerfully. Too many are simply vessels for men to throw fantasies or are “quirky” solely for the purposes of annoying me (not really, but you get my point that Ms. Perry is very annoying).

I originally wrote something here about modern feminist/liberal thought about the notion of standards in what we consider acceptable/attractive/etc. and the movement of those standards as society progresses. But, ultimately, I am not smart enough to explain my feelings on this without sounding like a complete jackass other than to say this: Thankfully, we have the Internet.

Whatever attracts you, the Internet can give it to you. This, again, speaks to my confusion as to what is “mainstream” and what is not, as segmentation is exactly what the Internet gives you. If you attracted to overweight people, there is a wealth of sites for you to discuss/look at/etc. overweight people; but there are hardly any overweight people on network television.

Like I said, I can’t really discuss this with any insight that doesn’t make me sound like a jackass. I do know this: Adele is not a tiny, size 0 sexpot. And that’s great. She’s got fucking pipes and she’s got personality.

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