By Courtney E. Smith
First she was 19 and then she was 21. Hopefully by the time Adele’s next effort comes out she’ll be 25 and the year will be 2014. But with a life filled with domestic bliss, a new baby and apparently lots of excellent music (Twitter shout-outs from Adele in the last 12 months include Lily Allen, Robbie Williams, Sam Smith, Kanye West, the Civil Wars and Patti Smith), it’s easy to imagine her as a stay-at-home mom soaking up the best of new and old music while new ideas slowly roam around in her head.
There were some major personnel shifts between 19 and 21. While her debut album was principally written by herself with a few assists from British songwriters Eg White and Sacha Skarbek (with one track, “Right As Rain,” featured a spangled mess of songwriters resulting in kind of a Burt Bachrach-sounding thing), 21 was plotted as a monster from the start based on songwriting collaborations alone.
Massive hits came from her sessions with A-list songwriter names like Ryan Tedder, Dan Wilson, Greg Wells and producer Paul Epworth for the next album. Even the subject matter is vastly different — where 19 is a snapshot of a girl becoming a woman and the myriad of experiences that contains, 21 was the very autobiographical story of Adele’s arduous break-up. Her next album is sure to very gently upset the cart just as much as the choices she made on the first two did.
We’ve come up with some ideas on what we think, hope, and wish Adele might do now that she’s 25.
The Numbers Thing
As album titles go, this one is make or break. If she does the age thing yet again (she almost didn’t with 21) then she’s stuck on it forever. It will be hard to name the next album “25”, since she would have been writing the songs and having the life experiences that influenced the songs for multiple years. If she waits until well past 25, well…the numbers thing makes less sense with every year that passes. We predict she changes to a title track based system moving forward.
The Covers Thing
On 19 it was Bob Dylan. On 21 it was The Cure. It is a given that the next Adele album will have one of her soulful, inventive covers — but what? Based entirely on math, she actually went from a song on Dylan’s 1997 release back in time to a song from a 1989 release by The Cure so we might look for her to stretch back 8 more years and do a classic 1981 tune. Some options we’d love to hear her take on from that year include: Elvis Costello’s “Watch Your Step,” The Kinks’ “Better Things,” The Pretenders’ “I Go To Sleep” or “Talk of the Town,” The Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” or The Cars’ “I’m Not The One.”
The Autobiographical Thing
This could also be referred to as “The New Baby Thing.” Adele has proven herself to be a very autobiographical songwriter, working heavily from her own experiences and emotions to make these great, universal songs. There’s a damn fine chance the next album will be her “happy” record, because everything is peachy keen, as far as we know, in the day-to-day life of Adele. What everyone is really curious about is if she’ll include songs about her new son, whose name she withheld from the press for quite a stretch after his birth — in fact, she still hasn’t made an official public announcement confirming that little peanut has a name, although he’s widely believed to be named Angelo. So where will she sit with the line between being this great autobiographical songwriter and being a mother? We predict there will be at least one “Blue” (a la Beyoncé) track, dedicated to the little love of her life, sitting side by side with a “Drunk In Love,” dedicated to proving we don’t know everything there is to know about Adele.
The Collaborators Thing
The last batch certainly helped Adele create a hell of a lot of hits, but we’d like to see some new blood in the mix for the next album. In the way of producers, it would be fun to see her work with an indie figure like Ariel Rechtshaid (Haim, Vampire Weekend) or go to the other extreme and work with a veteran like Jeff Tweedy of Wilco for a more homespun, soulful sound. Would it be too much for the woman who was written up as the next Amy Winehouse (although she’s clearly shaken off that comparison) to work with Mark Ronson again? It would produce some more joyful sounding hits.
In the world of songwriters, we really want to see her with Greg Kurstin (Kelly Clarkson, Lily Allen) for some monster pop hit; PJ Morton for some new soul; Aubrey Graham (better known as Drake) from some emo; and maybe a team up with Chris Martin of Coldplay for something in the epic British arena song tradition.
The Artwork Thing
She’s done beautiful color studio shots with a black background. She’s done beautiful black and white studio shots with a grey background. Literally the only thing left is to go outside for the next album cover. If this is an album about living a happy, every day kind of life with all it’s small successes and failures then the outdoor shot would offer the right kind of opening up feeling. She needs a grassy meadow or park though and not a seascape — the former is far too reminiscent of her iconic video for “Someone Like You.”