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ADELE’S “BLOOD ON THE TRACKS”…OR NOT

PUBLIC ENEMY ONCE RAPPED, “Don’t believe the hype!” And for those of us who dare retain a fondness for honesty and our own personal integrity in the midst of conformity and partisan elevations, we are not afraid to declare that the latest Adele record is pretty mediocre. That only the simpering media and her slavish fans will be rewarded with much joy upon seriously listening to her fourth album, 30.

And I wasn’t that fond of her previous release, 25, either. 

Whereas her first two releases (naturally) had a more youthful, yearning, exploratory feeling and a narrative worth rooting for, the next two albums have been bombastic and overwrought, troubling diva turns. 

The media hosannas offered for 30 is yet another indictment of their corruption, of their capitulation to (female) celebrity worship above serious aesthetic contemplation (see Taylor Swift, even Beyoncé). Their focus is upon the Concept (the Breakup, the Divorce, Female Sexual Empowerment), relegating the music to the truly incidental. The PR campaign overrides the listening experience. These “critics” are practically employees for the artist themselves. As long as they share the same liberal platform of “ideas” and identifications which you can recite from memory. How else to explain the veneration of dreadful “artists” like Cardi B. and Megan Thee Stallone?

The recording didn’t improve after taking a hiatus from it for a week. I can’t say it worsened and I may have gained a begrudging respect for a few more numbers, yet it still depressed the hell out of me.

Be forewarned 30 is Adele’s “Divorce Album” and supposedly one is supposed to have some tabloid knowledge of her ex-husband’s existence. One is supposed to know that Our Lady of Sorrow has “suffered’ and this is a document of her suffering, which has probably never been equaled before in all of history.

Okay. Facetiousness aside, none of these details should disqualify 30 on those grounds alone. Greater albums than this have sprung from similar circumstances. Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, one of the greatest albums ever made, is a stellar document on the subject, a masterful survey of relationships and marriages falling apart.

And it’s follow up, Desire, would have been a worthier sequel; an angrier, more visceral cry of the heart, save for the inclusion of non-narrative songs which distill the overall mood (and quality).

 

Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear; once critically lambasted for its unhinged honesty, shamelessness and vulnerability, is hardly as artful and definitive. It’s ever bit as “confessional” as 30, yet it’s a superior record. And experience. There’s been a deserved reevaluation which redeems it as a cri de coeur and a certain curiousity.

30 is just as “naked” as Here, My Dear, just as “needy” and hardly flattering of its singer. It’s so “of its time,” which I do not mean is a compliment. 

It’s no wonder Adele in pre-launch mode sat down for a “big interview” with the insipid, insufferable Oprah Winfrey, the talk show host’s trademark therapeutic New Age psychobabble dovetails nicely with Adele’s lyrics. The lyrics are often too embarrassing to quote. Or too trite. Everything is telegraphed from a football pitch away. Taylor Swift might as well be calling the plays.

Musically piano-centric mid-tempos and ballads dominate the proceedings, often with odd, very annoying backup vocal arrangements. Sometimes there’s a deliberate retro approach, but there’s also something akin to insectoid buzzing which distracted me to no end

The opener “Strangers By Nature” and the first single “Easy On Me” are unremarkable but harmless. But “My Little Love” is unforgivable and sinks 30 for the longest stretch. A treacly, self-serving and selfish “duet” with her child, whose identity I refuse to Google, is the nadir of so many things not just the recording, but her career as well. No matter her intent, even if I attribute a “sincerity” to it, to include actual or even staged snatches of dialogue with one’s actual child, discussing the aftermath of actual divorce upon the household is beyond exploitative. It’s not just “creepy.” It’s an abuse of a child seemingly devoid of true agency for its protection. And then she further trash bins the song with one-sided hysterical audio confessions clearly intended for an actual therapist not her audience. 

Seriously, if you listen to this debacle of morality and ethics and don’t feel impure afterwards then you are wallowing in the mental deadness of idolatry. Seriously, what are you supposed to do with this track? How are you supposed to process it? There is nothing “artful” to it. It’s one thing for Adele to insert her own personal drama into her music, but the inclusion of her own child is an intrusion of decency. A child is not a prop to be inserted willy-nilly for the sake of “art” and entertainment. And spare me the self-serving bullshit that these records are her diaries or journals of her life captured on vinyl. One can write and sing songs alluding to motherhood and divorce without destroying the privacy of one’s own child!

There are no other crimes against humanity, just a wide swath of material I couldn’t muster any passion for. Though “I Drink Wine” merits a minor gripe, as a fairly attractive quasi-gospel song is ruined by vapid babble.

Really, only the last three selections rally an interest of ever returning to 30. “Hold On” and “To Be Loved” are salveageable. Pleasure almost can be detected. 

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“Love Is A Game” might remind you title alone of a far better song “Love Is A Losing Game” by another British belter, much missed, who in retrospect had a better handle of combing “confessions” with truer artistry. The former pomps and swells and is over produced, but at least it flickers into the sumptuous. The finale transports the singer and her court into something beyond itself, a more sacred and visceral space than nearly anything heard before it.

Who knows if the world will exist in five years. Maybe there will be a “35″ in Adele’s future and ours. Here’s hoping that she will benefit from a half decade or more of maturity and purpose, delivering something other than exploitation and homilies.

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