Adele, that icon of modern popular song, seems to be quite a divisive character. While she has an undoubtedly splendid voice, she has attracted a fair amount of criticism for her writing, nowhere more so than here on her debut album. Consider this though, this debut was released when she was 19 years old right? So these are the lyrics of a teenage girl, dealing with coming of age, hormonal hell, relatively immature boyfriends and generally trying to establish her identity as an adult while making all those mistakes that ordinary everyday folk do in their late teenage years, all in the name of life experience. Taking these circumstances into account 19 is actually a far better debut album than could be expected. In other words, it’s a debut album, it’s not supposed to be a fully formed and unquestionable classic.
I make no bones about it, I like Adele. I like the fact that the biggest selling female artist in recent years hasn’t been some ridiculous caricature of what a woman in the music industry should be and is a painfully real, genuine person. I like the fact she name-drops Spice Girls and P!nk as her two biggest inspirations and not the likes of Dusty Springfield or Aretha Franklin (refreshing honesty there, don’t you think?). I like the fact she seems so ordinary and has been quite candid about the fact that she’s been occasionally overwhelmed by her success and the press intrusion into her life. I like the fact that 19 is not a fully mature work and it leaves space for her to grow as an artist and performer, that’s what a good debut album is supposed to do – show potential and herald the arrival of a new talent, not showcase a fully developed and finished article. And yes, “Chasing Pavements” is one hell of a pop single.
While 19 will probably always be viewed as being in the shadow of the mega-selling 21, it should be remembered that this was Adele’s starting point and that globe-conquering careers have been built upon far less promising debuts. 19 is an album by a girl trying to prove she’s a woman. It only follows then that 21 is the sound of the same girl admitting that even with two years more experience she’s still got some way to mature yet and that mistakes will inevitably be made. This is exactly as it should be when you’re in your late teens and early twenties.
No matter which way I try and analyse this album and consider the flaws in Adele’s wider career that so many ‘serious’ music fans claim are painfully apparent, I can’t help liking it. 19 is a fine debut album by a rare talent, and that’s something that no amount of indignant huffing and puffing from those ‘serious’ music fans can take away from it.
I’m a heavy-set heterosexual man in my late-30s and I like Adele. You got a problem with that?