Has class and style running through its vein...
Jamie Milton

15:00 20th January 2011

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The sharp, effusive energy of 'Rolling In The Deep' is enough to spell out exactly what's going on here: Adele, two years on from her career kick-starting debut, has come of age. Be it the songwriters who surround her or the making of her own determination, '21' is the little nudge forward that every pop sensation requires if they want the long-term appeal that surely beckons for this soul specialist.

'19', for all its qualities, was borderline dinner-party music and granted, its elder sister occasionally stumbles into similar territory (the over simplified 'He Won't Go' and frighteningly Paulo Nutini-esque 'One And Only' as examples). But make no mistake: The majority of Adele's second long-player has class and style running through its veins. Its songs - all potential hits - are intelligent and capable of drawing in adoration from every age-group imaginable (apart from the stubborn and narrow-minded amongst us). Pop finally has its all-encapsulating icon.

Sentimentality seeps through the gaps of these songs; Adele capturing the frustration and defeat of a break-up and applying these emotions to both humble balladry and energetic up-tempo numbers. Both closing track 'Someone Like You' and the somewhat familiar 'Turning Tables' beautifully demonstrate the singer's knack for applying genuine fear and sadness into a four minute record. The former, a devastating swansong, shows the songstress in full blossom, conveying the record's message in one breathtaking line: "Sometimes it lasts in love / But sometimes it hurts instead." It's the album's most revealing moment both in its lyrical honesty and its portrayal of Adele's voice showing a little ounce of strain, perhaps as the emotion begins to overwhelm. Anyone immune to a song like this needs seeing to.

The track that precedes is of similar frankness and simplicity: 'Lovesong''s supple chords coming closest to Corinne Bailey Rae's Mercury-nominated 'The Sea' - another record that deals with the breaking of a heart with terrifying candor.

The eventual result is a record that avoids becoming artificial or phoney. It's as real as pop gets right now. Equally, its maturity will have Adele compared to Amy Winehouse and her breakthrough 'Back In Black'. The drawing line between the two is that Winehouse continues to manoeuvre a speciality for tabloid headline-grabbing, whereas Adele stands tall with her feet firmly on the ground, a symbol of experience and wisdom. This, it just so happens, is exactly what a sterile chart currently requires and for that we should be thankful.

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