Back in 2007, Adele Adkins was touted as the next Amy Winehouse. The 2011 version of Adele isn’t Amy. She’s much better, with a stronger voice and songs.
Adele’s album “21” sets the tone right away -- a bluesy “there’s a fire starting in my heart” delivered in Aretha Franklin-style gospel on “Rolling in the Deep.”
The CD, out in the U.S. next month, is flying off the shelves in Adele’s native U.K., shifting about 100,000 copies in its first two days. It easily beats Duffy’s similarly retro “Endlessly.”
Adele also rises above comparisons with Leona Lewis, another alumnus of the BRIT School, which fosters performing arts. Take her song “Rumour Has It,” co-written with Ryan Tedder, the author of Lewis’s “Bleeding Love.” Adele’s track is a riot of crazy percussion with huge hit potential.
The slower ballads are also winners, such as “Don’t You Remember,” one of four numbers produced by Rick Rubin, and the piano-led closer “Someone Like You.” Adele’s heartache is touching as she comes to terms with a failed relationship: “Never mind, I’ll find someone like you.”
Adele is still doing cover versions. Her tender take on Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” last time is followed here by a souped-up version of the Cure’s “Lovesong.”
British Sea Power’s “Valhalla Dancehall” kicks as hard as the rampant horse on the album’s cover. The band takes the stadium-pleasing template of 2008’s “Do You Like Rock Music?” and adds studio sheen. “Who’s in Control?” begins with a radio-friendly riff, though the remaining hour is sadly short of memorable hooks.
P.J. Harvey’s “Let England Shake” is a brave piece of experimental rock. She takes risks. When it works, which is most of the time, the record is brilliant.
This is a state-of-the-nation sketch that will strike more of a chord on Harvey’s side of the pond, with titles such as “The Glorious Land,” “England” and “The Last Living Rose.” Still, the lyrics reveal a love-hate relationship to home, wherever that may be: “Take me back to beautiful England/ and the gray, damp filthiness of ages.”
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Download fees vary across services. The CDs are priced from $12.98 in the U.S. and 8.99 pounds in the U.K.
The Adele album is out in the U.K. on XL and will be released in the U.S. by Columbia on Feb. 22. British Sea Power is on Rough Trade. P.J. Harvey’s album will be released on Island Records on Feb. 15 (U.S.) and Feb. 14 (U.K.)
(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)