BY Sarah MurphyPublished Nov 20, 2015

Adele called out "Hello?" and the world answered with hundreds of millions of YouTube views and practically impossible-to-live-up-to expectations for 25, the singer's first album in almost five years. Rather than picking up where 2011's 21 left off, 25 ushers in a new era for Adele — one that hears her sounding stronger, more assured and, well, older.
A far cry from the glitzy, good-times-rollin' millennial pop of Taylor Swift's 1989 (another record emphatically about being a woman in her mid 20s), Adele opts for maturity here — a process perhaps expedited by motherhood, and one resulting in recurring themes of forgiveness ("Water Under the Bridge") and moving on ("Send My Love (to Your New Lover)"). But for all the steps taken forward, Adele still takes time to reflect on her past ("I Miss You," "When We Were Young," "Million Years Ago") with the keen sense of melodic melancholy that's become somewhat of a signature for her.
Singles "Hello" and "When We Were Young" remain highlights on the record, but aforementioned tracks like "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)," "I Miss You" and "Water Under the Bridge," not to mention "River Lea," hear Adele taking a welcome detour from the orchestral piano-pop formula and moving towards more interesting, groove-driven patterns. She still tugs at the heartstrings with tried and tested ballad-esque tunes like "Love in the Dark" and "All I Ask" — and it's that refusal to commit to anything completely edgy that will keep 25 at the top of the charts and in the stocking of every kid, parent and grandparent everywhere, even if the snobs don't buy in.
(XL Recordings)

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