Adele 21

Adele 21
At 19 years of age, Adele Adkins achieved what many artists spend a lifetime striving for, receiving a BRIT and two Grammies, not to mention a Mercury Prize nomination, for debut album 19. But at the age of 21, it feels as though she's aged at least a decade with second album 21. Beginning strong with the one-two punch of gospel heart-bleeder "Rolling in the Deep" and the swampy blues stomp of "Rumour Has It," Adele emanates the kind of ass-kicking sass you'd expect from a diva twice her age. But 21 runs into a wall soon after, with the Londoner failing to keep the momentum up. Using a variety of A-list producers (Paul Epworth, OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder and Rick Rubin, to name a few), she flip-flops styles, moving from cheap country pastiche ("Don't You Remember") to Elton John-inspired pop ballads ("Take It All") to a smooth jazz rendition of the Cure's "Lovesong," which smacks of some spur-of-the-moment radio session. By ending with a certified hit like "Someone Like You" and the raw blues stroke of "If It Hadn't Been For Love," she manages to lift 21 out of its rut. But with a voice as devastatingly powerful, confident and vulnerable as hers singing such explicit break-up songs, Adele should have audiences eating out her hands. But don't be fooled by the headlines ― Adele is not the new Aretha, at least not quite yet. (XL)