By: Tori Nagudi
Photos via Adele
It’s finally out! It’s hard to believe that Adele released 21 in January 2011, when most of us were in middle school. Although it’s felt like an eternal wait, the queen is back – and she has delivered. Read our track-by-track rundown to find your new favorite song.
You’ve heard this song. You know every word to this song. I don’t need to review it.
Best Lyric: Whatever sounds best during your loudest, most inspiring drunken rendition.
Verdict: I have a theory that it’s scientifically impossible to get this song out of your head without letting it run its course. Best not to fight it.
- Send My Love (To Your New Lover)
This upbeat and reflective song contrasts the melancholic and tumultuous “Hello”, conveying the mature acceptance and forgiveness of an old flame that wronged her. The vocals are lighter and reach a higher falsetto range here, and the plucky, simplistic acoustic guitar makes this a buoyant track.
Best Lyric: “I was too strong, you were trembling/ You couldn’t handle the hot heat rising/ I was running, you were walking/ You couldn’t keep up, you were falling down”
Verdict: If you believe the best revenge is becoming happy, this song will echo your mantra.
- I Miss You
This powerful song is made more dynamic by the juxtaposition of the rolling drumbeats and Adele’s strong, emotional vocals. She opens up about her inner desires, revealing a side of her she hasn’t shown before in a beautifully vulnerable way.
Best Lyric: “I want every single piece of you/ I want your heaven and your oceans, too”
Verdict: A very cathartic song, this is perfect for belting out in your dorm room when none of your neighbors are around.
- When We Were Young
Arguably the best song on this album, this bittersweet song emanates nostalgia. The soft piano backdrop and wavering vocal qualities made me feel like a mature old woman reminiscing on my youth – even though I’m barely legal age.
Best Lyric: “Let me photograph you in this light/ In case it is the last time/ That we might be exactly like we were/ Before we realized we were scared of getting old”
Verdict: This will likely be the next song to climb the charts, so it’s definitely worth checking out.
The lyrics of this song are poignant, and the vocals beautifully haunting – but the solo piano backdrop and short verses make it a bit dull in comparison with the other, fuller tracks.
Best Lyric: “When the pain cuts deep/ When the night keeps you from sleeping/ Just look and you will see/ That I will be your remedy”
Verdict: A sweet lyrical proclamation of unconditional love that is ultimately shortchanged by a forgettable musical accompaniment.
- Water Under the Bridge
This song opens with a groovy beat and builds to a catchy chorus complete with a choir, which gets progressively more powerful each subsequent time it comes around.
Best Lyric: “If you’re going to let me down, let me down gently/ Don’t pretend that you don’t want me/ Our love ain’t water under the bridge”
Verdict: While maybe not the overall best, this is the catchiest song on the album in my opinion, and will make any concert-goer hold up a lighter and sway along. You’ll be thinking, “I FEEL YOUUU” the whole time – despite having no idea what “water under the bridge” literally means.
- River Lea
This soulful song is Adele’s preemptive apology for all the hurt she hasn’t even yet inflicted upon the guy in question but knows she will eventually because trouble and pain just runs in through her veins.
Best Lyric: “Oh it’s in my roots, it’s in my veins/ It’s in my blood and I stain every heart that I use to heal the pain”
Verdict: While the electronic beats, produced by EDM producer Dangermouse, are uncharacteristic of Adele, the lyrics and the badass “I’m a tortured soul bound to break hearts” theme of this song make it a reasonable ballad.
- Love In the Dark
This heartbreaking melody chronicles Adele’s severing of ties with presumably the same guy she talked about in “I Miss You”. She asks him not to watch her go because it’s far too painful.
Best Lyric: “I’m being cruel to be kind”
Verdict: Break out the tissues.
- Million Years Ago
This slow and regretful yet substantive number has a vintage, classic air to it. Adele wails about the impermanence of youth, the times she wishes to revisit, and the rift she feels between the past and present, where the price of fame has left her experiencing alienation and loneliness.
Best Lyric: “Deep down I must’ve known/ That this would be inevitable/ To earn my stripes I’d have to pay/ And bare my soul”
Verdict: Although I’m not sure if it’ll be chosen as a single, this is my personal favorite track on the album. The pensive, reminiscent vocals make this song easy to get lost in.
- All I Ask
This song sounds a bit like a cheesy yet still-relevant 80’s ballad. Adele’s vocals are on point here, but I’m getting too many “Total Eclipse of the Heart” vibes, and I was sick of that song before I was even born.
Best Lyric: The entire first verse, starting with “I will leave my heart at the door/ I won’t say a word”
Verdict: This song was written by 4 people – including Bruno Mars – and produced by a team of pop hit-makers. If you live for corny love ballads, this is totally your jam – and there ain’t no shame in owning it.
- Sweetest Devotion
This optimistic and triumphant song ends as an album tinged by regret and unrequited love with a much-needed glimmer of hope. The tempo is faster, and there’s a country-ish twinge somewhere in the mix, which somehow works for this British songstress. Reportedly, this track is actually about her son. Awwwww!
Best Lyric: “The sweetest devotion/ Hit me like an ocean/ All my life I’ve been frozen/ The sweetest devotion I know”
Verdict: We’ve been rooting for Adele throughout this emotionally tumultuous album, and this final song gives us hope. Yay Adele! Another classic for us crooners to belt out.