Let me just say this straight away. Adele’s fourth studio album is so much more than just a divorce record. It’s a reclamation of strength and confidence in the wake of trauma and heartbreak. It’s the navigation of anxiety and mental health issues. And it’s the undying love for her son who she wants to protect and educate about her journey to-date.
’30’ is the most transparent and unfiltered we’ve heard the British singer-songwriter yet, and it’s also the most experimental she’s been sonically as she steps out of the box and pushes her explorations of references and soundscapes. From the cinematically scored and Judy Garland inspired opening track ‘Strangers By Nature’, to the reggae influenced ‘Cry Your Heart Out’, to the Amy Winehouse meets Beyonce inspired ‘All Night Parking’, the range is distinguishably varied. Amy Winehouse is a distinct influence that shines through the majority of the album, and there is quite a maturity in that alone.
Designed to be experienced by listening to it from start to finish, the album is bookended by the cinematically penned ‘Strangers By Nature’ and ‘Love Is A Game’. The opening lyric “I’ll be taking flowers to the cemetery of my heart” immediately sets the tone. While the last lyric rings the sentiment that she’s grown and wouldn’t change the hurt she’s been through. “I’d do it all again like I did it” she confidently and honestly sings. The journey she went on between those two lyrical moments is 12 songs of deep introspection. Lyrically this is the most honest and transparent she’s ever been. The metaphors aren’t grand and illusive, and instead she’s straight to the point in baring her soul with the listener.
‘My Little Love’ is an early standout in highlighting that raw tenderness. Using this song to communicate with her son about her divorce and her struggles with anxiety, she sings the refrain whole heartedly as she reassures him that she’s still here and still learning for him and their future ; “Mama’s got a lot to learn”. Breaking the 6 and a half minute ballad up with little voice notes from conversations she had with her him about what was happening, you will instantly tear up and get shivers from this very intimate insight.
After addressing the immediate heartbreak of the divorce and her mental health issues, the album steers into experimentation and further explorations. ‘Cry Your Heart Out’, ‘Oh My God’, ‘Can I Get It’ and ‘All Night Parking Interlude’ are little pop bangers that push her sonic and create some very individual highlights. But the honest ballad ‘I Drink Wine’ truly feels like the album’s centrepiece moment. Realising that she needed to shed her ego, this song is incredibly introspective as she sings “Well, I hope I learn to get over myself. Stop tryin’ to be somebody else”.
‘To Be Loved’ is another very special ballad that perfectly captures the album’s themes and maturity. It’s all about growth and reflecting back on the journey she’s had to-date, and she gives a signature big Adele vocal moment. “To be loved and love at the highest count means to lose all the things I can’t live without. Let it be known that I will choose to lose, It’s a sacrifice, but I can’t live a lie. Let it be known, let it be known that I tried” she honestly sings.
The journey this album takes you on is mutually heartbreaking and empowering. She shatters your heart to only piece it together while holding your hand. She allows you to know that it’s okay to go through pain and that you’re not alone in this process. It’s a very cohesive listen that begs you to experience it from start to finish as the tracklisting is very thought out as it represents her own personal experience since ’25’.