Review #137: 21, Adele

Karla Clifton
3 min readJul 28, 2021


#137: 21, Adele

This was a pop album that I was obsessed with even before I was too cool for pop. Adele is a freak of nature.

I had heard most of these songs on the radio when I was in high school. You literally couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing Adele. God, what a weird, great phenomenon.

Adele wrote this about a much older boyfriend who I guess was a jerk (shocker), and as a result, every song on this sounds like it’s somebody’s swan song. She sounds like she’s going to die as soon as the song is over and this has to be the best version yet.


“Rolling in the Deep” — Adele says that this is a play on the slang “roll deep,” which means to have a really intense relationship with someone. How fun that this album is bookended by its two best songs.

“Rumour Has It” — Love the British “u” here, and also the squeak in her voice when she says Just cuz I said it/ It don’t mean that I meant it.

“Turning Tables” — The lead singer from OneRepublic, Ryan Tedder, helped Adele write this song! That guy’s name pops up a bunch of places you wouldn’t expect.

“Don’t You Remember” — Sometimes it's nice to listen to the songs on this album that weren’t hits, because I haven’t heard them thousands of times.

“Set Fire to the Rain” — How can you have all that character and emotion in your voice and still be able to control it at all? Adele is a witch.

“Take It All” — I don’t think I’ve ever felt as much emotion as Adele did when she said Go on and take it allllll.

“I’ll Be Waiting” — I cannot believe she was only 21 when she did this. This is the best breakup album of all time.

“Lovesong” — I had no idea that Adele covered the Cure! And what a cool cover, too, with the Spanish-style guitar and her butterfly voice. Amazing.

“Someone Like You” — In some ways, this song is just a different take on the situation in “You Oughta Know” by Alanis. When she belts those high, high notes, my heart breaks right in two pieces. I always want to sing along to this one, but what’s the point?


“One And Only” — I’m sorry, Adele, but I can only handle so many piano ballads in a row.


Okay, I hate to use another band as an example, because that just seems unfair, but in this case I point you to Review #131, Dummy by Portishead. At the time I took no issue with their place on the list, because I was very into it, and it reminded me of Grimes. But that album was nowhere near as ubiquitous or flawless as 21 is.

I think they’re both beautiful, provocative albums, but I’m just saying. Seems like Adele might belong higher up than Portishead.

Review #136: Maggot Brain, Funkadelic

Review #138: The Immaculate Collection, Madonna