With Amy Winehouse shifting records by the millions and scooping five Grammies last week, it's no wonder record companies are throwing their diminishing resources behind young female acts. London-born Adele Adkins, a stage school product, has got the hype, being compared to not just the controversial Winehouse but vocal greats such as Ella Fitzgerald. The comparisons are as damaging as they are premature.
Her debut album, 19, referencing her age, showcases her stunning vocal range with a bluesy, soulful collection of 12 songs about love won and lost. It marks her out as a distinctive British talent in the line of Joss Stone, Winehouse and Kate Nash, but her voice never gets near the emotion and spine-tingling delivery that marked the likes of Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.
However, this is an album worth appreciating in its own right. The well-crafted songs are not the stuff of most teenage singers, or listeners, as Adele switches seamlessly from heartfelt soul (Daydreamer) to toe-tapping jazz (My Same) to balladry (Melt My Heart to Stone) and Lily Allen-esque storytelling (Tired).
'I'm tired, I'm tired, your teasing ain't enough/ I'm bored, I'm bored when I don't get nuffing back', she sings, suddenly giving vent to her London vernacular. Complete with string arrangement, the song seems aimed at the pop crowd and sounds like a collection of Pop Idol auditions. The excellent closer Hometown Glory, however, is a thoroughly modern track that suggests she can do more than evoke singers from a bygone age.
Adele is a talent worth nurturing, but for all the maturity in her sound, she hasn't even begun to find her own identity.