As we previously reported, Adele’s 25 marked her fifth LP since 2011 and the best-selling album of 2017. Adele (or Adele Witness, as the late-night talk show saw her referred to by her pals) released 30 on Thursday and received an ecstatic reaction from fans and critics alike. It has the rare distinction of cracking the American Top 20 in its first week.
30 is an uplifting, slow-burner from start to finish and a fitting companion piece to 25, with which it shares a similarly crushing-but-chilled tone and equally dark subject matter. “Goodnight London,” she says, over and over. “I feel its hand on me from the door and say goodbye. I gotta get away before it’s too late.” It echoes “Hello,” of course, another throbbing ballad that led 25 to become the fastest-selling record in British history, a feat that came to an end when the singer announced her retirement from music last year.
Much of the singing was done live — the album’s unusual single, “When We Were Young,” was performed live on stage at the 60th anniversary of the London Olympics in the summer of 2016. But the LP boasts 15 songs, the majority of which were recorded over a year (many of them taped during her live shows). Adele’s online team assured the press in advance that they would keep with the traditional album placement of song-by-song in albums (30 and 25 are separated by 10 songs).
There were two singles released — the tour-closer “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” and the slower, crooning “When We Were Young” — that were released to stream and purchase. But there were no physical or digital CD releases, which made 30 a challenging task to gauge. The album was released on seven-inch vinyl (one-inch thick) single, 28-inch vinyl (two-inch thick) packaged box set and two CD releases: CD One, which is a greatest hits compilation, and CD Two, which has a mini-documentary of Adele on the road and a deluxe edition of her 25.
We asked some music writers what they made of Adele’s latest. Here’s what they had to say:
Allison Martell, Billboard
What I want to hear is Adele sing something new, maybe expand the scope of her range (how can I make that song I love love it?). No one can touch the depth of her voice, but we’ve been hearing the same old thing for years. I’m told Adele studied opera at school and has a voice coach now. A live segment at the end would be extremely beneficial for her. I’m down with all the other tracks, but as a perfect exemplar of the type of music that she writes for that age, it’s hard to ignore the fact that there’s not enough — that’s a word I like — new stuff on here. It just feels like being dumped by your high school crush.
Devan Coggan, Pitchfork
Some people like Adele. Most people don’t. I didn’t. Thirty is the not only the least favorite thing on her third album, it’s the worst of anything on her first two and eighth. Adele offers up 30, a driving, taut reminder of how remarkable she is, until everything totally goes horribly wrong and the album ends as a sublime album of banalities.
Rich Robinson, The Fader
“When We Were Young” feels like something Adele should have recorded around, say, 2012, and what a shame it would have been to use those Grammys to hang out with Taylor Swift and not her for an entire year. No matter what tracks follow, 30 is only mildly worth listening to. The first half is half-mumumental, half-pop mumblings. The second half is half-yacht-rock beat holler, half-Robbie Williams image maintenance. Adele becomes an incredibly capable vocalist with the “When We Were Young” parts. Over the years, she’s smoothed out her pipes a little more, but two years in, she still can’t recapture her over-abundance of howl/whisper energy.
Jordan Mintzer, The New York Times