“You’re so provocative, I’m so conservative/You’re so adventurous, I’m so very cautious,” Adele Adkins sang on her debut album 19. Perhaps she was addressing Amy Winehouse, the volatile id to Adele’s strait-laced, slightly dull superego. But the Winehouse comparisons pale on 21 as Adele finds her own voice – and what a grand, soulful voice it is too.
“Rolling in the Deep” is a stirring gospel number, “Don’t You Remember” is dramatic yet restrained, a dignified plea to a lover who has left, and “Someone Like You” rakes mournfully over the ashes of a wrecked relationship, Adele’s vocals crumbling like the façade of an ornate but neglected palace. Emotionally direct, musically powerful (Rick Rubin is one of the producers), 21 is Adele’s coming of age.