Accepting Age Elegantly: Adele’s Successful Third Album

By Erica Laidler (A&E Editor).

For a woman who almost decided to quit producing music after the release of her second popular studio album 21 and who struggled with writer’s block during her four-year break from the industry, Adele is watching her third album 25 soar to unprecedented levels of success. It was released last Friday.

“I started to wonder if 21, being so successful, was enough for everyone,” said Adele. “But I realized it wasn’t enough for me. So sorry, I’m here to make your ears bleed again.”

25 has sold an incredible 1.9 million copies in its first two days of sale and more than 900,000 on the iTunes store alone – statisticians predict it will sell at least 2.5 million copies by the end of the week. If this happens, it will have sold the greatest number of copies in its first week since 1991 and the beginning of the Nielson era.

“Hello,” a single from the album released on October 23, preluded the success of the album; it drained attention from Swift’s “Bad Blood” video with 27.7 million views on Youtube on its first day and from Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” with its No. 1 spot on November 14 Billboard Hot 100.

25 is the last of a series of albums by Adele titled after her age. Other albums in the series, including 19 and 21, also revolve thematically around important stages in her life.

25 primarily focuses on Adele’s mindset while she was 25, and revolves around the harsh acceptance of adulthood, coming to terms with oneself and one’s past, and what it means to be a mother.

With song titles like “When We Were Young”, and lyrics like “I’m so mad I’m getting old” and “I feel like my life is flashing by – and all I can do is watch and cry” in the song “A Million Years Ago”, it is evident that Adele spent time while she was 25 yearning for the past and feeling horror at the speed of time’s passing.

For this reason some critics found the songs in 25 to simply be more of Adele’s predictable, melancholy, piano-led ballads. The Atlantic said the songs reflect the insecurity that almost led her to quit the music industry because they are “too unsure, too slow, too introspective.”

After all, Adele is a popular enough musician to have afforded risks in 25, as proven by the 30 million copies that were sold of 21 and the vast success of 25 despite its lack of presence on popular streaming sites like Spotify. It is unlikely that an occasional faster beat or more carefree message in the album would have disturbed her loyal fan base.

But the album is hopeful rather than obsessively bitter, as it explores how Adele came to accept her adulthood. Moving into this stage in her life allowed her to understand her own identity and rejoice over the birth of her son, Angelo.

In “Sweetest Devotion,” Adele sings about how the unconditional love she shares with her son is better than the kinds she searched for in her younger days: “I wasn’t ready then; I’m ready now // You will only be eternally // The one that I belong to.”

This profound love has clearly helped matured her into the wiser Adele who writes 25, a woman who is now more selfless and yet also more self-aware.

Perhaps Adele’s aversion to Beyoncé-esque dance sequences and music videos like Swift’s “Wildest Dreams,” which features safari animals, does not earn her a wild reputation. And yet, in a society whose celebrities compete to be the most entertainingly original or bizarre, Adele stands out for being classily, simply, and outstandingly relevant.

Adele’s 25 provides people with what is lacking in modern music; the cohesive story that flows eloquently through her three albums is strikingly real. Even if Adele’s followers cannot relate to certain elements of her life story, the album’s themes of moving on and growing older are ones that humanity will never tire of, and the richness of Adele’s voice will seal any gaps along the way.

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