With her debut album, singer/songwriter Adele was quickly lumped in with British blue-eyed soul counterparts such as Amy Winehouse. She made an immediate splash when the album debuted at #1 on the UK charts. It was nominated for the 2008 Mercury Prize for Best Album and lead to four Grammy nominations, including wins for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for Chasing Pavements. That song also received nominations for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.
Detractors generally assessed her as not on the same level as her contemporaries. NME (New Musical Express) magazine said, “it’s clear that the Amy associations are little more than empty mediaspeak without any real weight. Despite the early indicators, there’s precious little on the album that prevents it from collapsing under the weight of its own expectation.” WK Uncut said, “19 reeks of some A&R trendhound making it his/her biz to sign The New Amy and not resting till s/he’s found the right chick.” WK Entertainment Weekly said “Adele’s songs aren’t as sharp as Duffy’s.” WK
However, even the detractors conceded that “Adele can certainly sing” (Uncut). WK and that “her singing throughout is a thing to behold” (Entertainment Weekly). WK Clearly in the fan camp, All Music Guide’s Matthew Chisling said, “Adele doesn’t shout for attention, and doesn’t rely on anyone but herself to prove she’s worth it.” MC She “is simply too magical to compare her to anyone. Bluesy like it’s no one’s business yet voluptuously funky in a contemporary way, Adele rocks out 19 with a unique voice and gritty sound that dazzle endlessly. Synthesizing blues, jazz, folk, soul, and even electric pop, Adele mystifies through her mature songwriting skills and jaw-dropping arrangements.” MC
Echoing similar sentiments, People magazine said, “with a knockout voice that’s rich and supple, robust and sultry, it’s hard to believe that this singer-songwriter is barely out of her teens.” WK The Guardian, which gave the album five stars, said, “The way she stretched the vowels, her wonderful soulful phrasing, the sheer unadulterated pleasure of her voice, stood out all the more; little doubt that she’s a rare singer.” WK BBC Music’s said, “she’s included something for everyone without ever pandering to a particular trend. Her melodies exude warmth, her singing is occasionally stunning…she has tracks that make Lily Allen and Kate Nash sound every bit as ordinary as they are.” WK In Billboard magazine, Chuck Taylor went so far as to say that “Adele truly has potential to become among the most respected and inspiring international artists of her generation.” WK
“In July 2008 Adele informed noted UK soul writer Pete Lewis…that the reason for naming her debut album 19 was to reflect her age while she was writing it: ‘I just kinda remember becoming a bit of a woman during that time. And I think that is definitely documented in the songs.’” WK
To be “such a terrific songwriter” MC at such a young age means “the Brit has so much room to expand her artistic dimensions into a full-fledged artist…it’s no wonder most critics see her as the top new talent of 2008.” MC “Nearly all the tracks seem to have been nurtured to glory over months as labors of love.” MC Daydreamer “engulfs the listener with a gorgeous feeling of awe and wonderment. On Melt My Heart to Stone and the bona fide hit ‘Chasing Pavements,’ Adele allows herself to soar over the strings and power her way through these incredible songs. The upbeat Right as Rain is just wonderful, with clear Ashford & Simpson influences speckled all over it in an upbeat set.” MC “The jazzy Best for Last is as retro as the tunes get on the album, yet it still manages to steer away from being boring or old-fashioned.” MC
One of the album’s highlights is her version of Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love, a song which Dylan first recorded on his 1997 Time Out of Mind. It had previously been recorded by Garth Brooks (a #1 country hit), Billy Joel (a top 10 adult contemporary hit), Trisha Yearwood, Bryan Ferry, Timothy B. Schmidt, and Joan Osborne. Adele recorded the song at the suggestion of Jonathan Dickins, her manager. He loved the song. WK Hers is the first charted version in the U.K.
“The song Hometown Glory has been featured in the British and American television shows Skins, Grey’s Anatomy, One Tree Hill, Hollyoaks, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, and most recently danced by Katee Shean and eventual winner, Joshua Allen on So You Think You Can Dance.” WK The song was also a nominee for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
“The only awkwardness throughout all of 19 is the overly poppy galactic Tired, which sounds as though it might have fallen off a Lily Allen track list, something that doesn’t suit Adele as a musician.” MC
In the overall assessment, “this debut isn’t an empty promise of a great career; 19 is a fleshed-out stunning portrayal of a young woman with a talent beyond her years who deserves immense credit for a unique style that never fails. A beyond stellar debut in both quality and originality.” MC
In February 2011, Adele accomplished a feat on the U.K. charts not seen since the Beatles’ heyday in 1964. With her new album, 21, perched atop the charts, 19 re-entered the top 5. At the same time, the singles chart gave up two of its top 5 spots to the first two singles in support of the new album. This made Adele the first artist since the Beatles to have two top 5 songs and two top 5 albums on the British charts.