Adele releases ‘30’ after 6-year hiatus. She’s an exceptional and consistent brand, says music critic

Written by Amy Ta and Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Bennett Purser

Six years after Adele’s last album, the British superstar is coming out with “30” this Friday, a record aptly named for her age when she started songwriting. To promote “30,” the now 33-year-old did an interview with Oprah that was part of a two-hour concert special filmed at LA’s Griffith Observatory. The performance aired Sunday on CBS.

“She's a stronger singer now than she was even a decade ago,” says Chris Molanphy, music critic for Slate and host of the “Hit Parade” podcast. He recalls that when Adele had throat surgery 10 years ago, at the height of her success with the album “21,” she had throat nodules removed, and her voice became stronger afterward. 

He says one of the most interesting parts in the Oprah interview was when the talk show host said Adele seemed happy and settled and asked whether she could write from a place of happiness, and whether she’s “getting better at this game of love.” 

Adele responded, “Yeah, I think so. Because I don't treat it like a game anymore — that thing of ‘you're going to hurt me, so I'm going to hurt you first.’ I'm not like that anymore.”

And Molanphy says that despite a six-year break, Adele still remains consistent.

“Adele gives you a consistent product, right? You are getting some version of the same Adele you remember from six years ago, and she is dropping back in like nothing has changed. In the six years she's been gone, there have been several cycles of pop music, and Adele seems to float above all of it.”

He says Adele has been an old soul that everyone, from teens to grandparents, can relate to. “A middle-aged person — and I speak as middle-aged person myself — if they only buy one album every couple of years, this may be the album they buy. They're not trying to keep up with trends.”

Molanphy says he’s curious to see how successful Adele’s new record is in the age of streaming music. He refers back to her record-breaking 3.3 million albums sold in one week after the release of “25.” 

“Folks are not lining up to pay a buck to buy Adele [singles]. They're going to stream this album. And it'll be interesting when the album finally drops to see what kind of numbers it does — because 3.3 million is probably impossible, just physically, like there are stores that don't even carry CDs anymore. … Also folks have changed their patterns. Even before the pandemic, they were changing the patterns, and the pandemic only accelerated people's use of streaming services.”

He adds, “It's gonna be a different world. She's kind of a Rip Van Winkle figure coming back after these six years.”  

What about people watching her perform in person? Molanphy says he’s sure she’ll do exceedingly well on tour. “The live arena is where Adele shines. You saw that in last night's performance, not just her mellifluous voice, but just her between-song banter. She's your chummy best friend.”

Where does Adele rank in the pantheon of other music divas like Amy Winehouse? 

“When Adele emerged in 2008, she was emerging very much in Amy Winehouse’s shadow. And as part of a small boomlet of British soul singers … Adele could have been just a part of that wave, but Adele is now exceptional. I mean, her instincts, her ear, her voice — she has exceeded all expectations for any of those artists. … She's a brand. People know what they're getting when they get an Adele album, and they are more than happy to consume her.”