From the topsy-turvy realm of fandom comes … a sprawling, eclectic and, from what I can see, tuneless explosion of song titles, all superimposed into a roaringly iconoclastic font. Perhaps equally at odds with good taste is the fact that, after the melodramatic, heart-racing In the Lonely Hour and the bare-bones When We Were Young, Adele appears to have dipped again into her middle finger. Her latest offering, 30 – a title that drips with trademark irreverence, as it does with references to visits to tanning salons, snakes and comedy comics – is her least conventional yet.
It wasn’t Adele who helped to craft the 21/25 double back in 2011, but the lead single That Song, a rudimentary burner that introduced us to an idiosyncratic brand of hip-hop from Atlanta which appeared on its surprise follow-up, 25. With 30, Adele and XL weren’t willing to recycle that formula again and close a deal, and formed an all-female team at Stockholm-based record label Nadine. It helped that one of the members of the team was her man as always, Daniel Bejar, aka Destroyer, who serves as producer on the record, all the while not pandering to the star.
“The ideas are not always going to be very good,” Bejar says. “But that’s how I work. She comes up with some ideas and I’ll go, ‘what would you think about this?’ I tend to be pretty fearless.”
Pleased to see people applaud. Photograph: Manuel Villa/EPA
Adele approaches songs about ghosts, stupidity, addiction and marauding bullies in a confident, even flashy way. A blockbuster of a chorus on Tides finds her sparring with Brit-pop’s No 1 export, Blur’s Damon Albarn. The mordant lyrics are singularly dark yet imbued with the spirit of a 60s satirist: on Face Paint, she plays Kelly Kapowski from Saved by the Bell, but inside she longs to be a homicide detective.
Adele, music’s comet, returns with ’30’. How Bright Will It Burn?
Around the US and Latin America, 30 is being billed as Loma Vista, a kind of Stones-meets-The Sopranos-meets-a-fictional gangster movie. Yet Bejar and Adele have been clear that they’re trying to avoid the clichés associated with that template.
“It wasn’t really a thing,” Adele says. “I mean, it could come out in later albums, but we definitely weren’t thinking in that context.”
There are different aspects to the sound of 30, but Adele’s come up with the most inventive harmonies of her career, placed atop sub-standard Krautrock production. Bejar, meanwhile, lends the record a festive feel – in the video for In Bed, Adele is dropped off by Santa in a small 1970s apartment, where she unwinds with a typewriter, a couple of glasses of red wine and some Santa potatoes.
Adele has hinted that 30 might be the first of a trilogy of records, which means there might be no Turning Tables, No Other Sound and Hello left to be revealed. The discography is littered with evidence that the blockbuster album of her life is possible – just wait until the dancey side split off into its own entity and runs with it.
Watch the video for In Bed