Man Lab: Adele 101

Not to make it seem like the Man Lab is a glorified music review service but our theory is that it never hurts to know about the music that women seem to love. Our last Man Lab music primer was about Arcade Fire. This time, we take a look at British singer Adele. I heard about Adele only a couple of weeks ago from listening to women talk about how much they like her music. Knowing how much common interests help you make an impression with a woman, here’s what you need to know about Adele.

The Adele Formula

If you ask Adele herself, her musical style is “heartbroken soul” which explains why it appeals to women. Her songs tend to be about love found and love lost at the most basic level. Her songs tend to alternate between lamenting a man who has left her and going on about this new crush of hers. Women can relate to both of these so it’s very easy to see why she’s popular.

Adele will also agree with critics who say that her vocals are more developed than her songwriting, for what it’s worth. Her vocals are definitely her strength. She has decent vocal range but she makes up for that by absolutely belting it out. It’s almost overpowering but you get used to it after a while. Her voice definitely stars in each song more so than the actual lyrics. You hear Adele but I don’t think you’re listening to her in a sense. If you want comparable artists, most critics lump her in with Duffy and Amy Winehouse. I don’t listen to either so you’ll just have to take their word for it.

19 (2008)

Noteworthy Singles: Chasing Pavements, Make You Feel My Love

There are two different types of songs on this album. There are your standard quiet songs that have very little in the way of backing music, such as only an acoustic guitar or bass. Then you have your handful of songs that are given the full work-up which were quite clearly produced to be released as single. Personally, Adele shines when singing on top of little backing but doesn’t really differentiate herself from anyone else in the female jazz/soul vocalist genre on the more single-type songs.

The important thing to note about this album (or the thing that all the critics mention) is that “19” refers to her age when recording this album. The fact that her voice is so powerful at that age is surprising though there are times when she overpowers some of her lyrics though it’s not a constant problem. So remember to mention that she has a powerful voice and great range for someone who was only 19 when she released her first album. Women love those sorts of buzzwords.

I haven’t gotten around to talking about the songs yet because there isn’t much to them. The album runs only twelve songs long but they’re all about love. The songs all tend to be about a boy who Adele isn’t sure if he wants to be her boyfriend or not. Her lyrics alternate between forlorn, slightly angry and longing. All typical emotions for a relationship and that’s what women find slightly therapeutic about this album. The problem with this album is that 12 songs all touching on the same couple of themes don’t make for a musical masterpiece. Just don’t say last sentence out loud.

21 (2011)

Noteworthy Singles: Someone Like You, Rolling in the Deep

The first thing that is readily apparent in 21 is that the songs have a lot more production work put into them. Unlike 19 where about half of the songs were one instrument and the occasional bit of percussion, 21 features piano, strings, drums, backing vocals. Basically, its got the full studio works package.

Two things haven’t changed. Adele’s booming blues/soul vocals still feature prominently above all the backing music in each song. On the down side, while the songs all sound different than Adele’s first album, the lyrics don’t really change theme from her first effort. Like 19, all these songs can easily be described as heartbroken, forlorn and longing. And also like 19, there isn’t much more to her songs than that. Again, don’t say that last part out loud.

I know this album is called 21 despite coming three years after 19 but she was 21 when the album was recorded in 2010. So something else worth mentioning is how skilled a singer and songwriter she is at such a young age. Don’t be afraid to say something to the effect of how good she is at belting out songs and put feeling into her lyrics that singers who are 31 or 41 wish they could.

It should be pretty obvious why women love Adele. Women love this sort of romance/love song stuff which is mixed with a bit of girl power inspiration. Whether a woman is currently going though a break-up or not, chances are that they can relate to what Adele is singing. And like I said with Arcade Fire a few weeks ago, relating to women through music will make an impression. Being able to talk about Adele adds a little bit of complexity to you rather than running the risk of being a fan of the latest flavor of the month artist (which I’m sure would be a thought if you only had a high-level knowledge of Arcade Fire).

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