The notion that Adele is both a dynamic and self-sufficient enough personality that the best course of action is to simply stay out of her way, is a lesson no one appears to have learned on sophomore release 21.
Its title implying a maturation of her debut, 21 instead feels simultaneously overcooked and nervously unsure of itself, piling one ostentatious production on top of another. Given that the vast majority of 21 plays like several people's ideas of what Adele 'should' sound like, it should come as no surprise that a fair number of these collaborations end up goading her in various retro directions. Occasionally, these pastiches come off as novel enough, and Adele's convictions strong enough, to sell the experiment, such as on the booming John Barry homage Rumour Has It.
More often though, she is saddled with ersatz arrangements such as the Vegas lounge trappings that stifle the potentially compelling addiction drama He Won't Go.
Final song Someone Like You is a stunning performance of a number finally worthy of her talents, immediately rendering the hedge-betting scepticism of the rest of 21 hopelessly weak and irrelevant by comparison.