A recent ID cover feature called ‘When We Were Young’, the second track unveiled from Adele’s upcoming ‘25’ album, a “shimmery disco ballad”. Adele herself interviewed the song’s co-writer, the Los Angeles-based, Canadian-born songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr, for the Observer and he exclaimed: “I think a couple of the ideas we had when we worked together would be good for rap songs!”
The idea was that this would be the curveball of ‘25’. The Tottenham singer’s last record, ‘21’, has sold 31 million copies since 2011 and has done so by way of heart-wrenching, emotional ballads. Reading the above quotes, it was hard not to get excited by the prospect of Adele leaving her comfort zone. Had she gone all Donna Summer with a slinky, synth-based backing track? No one realistically thought the 27-year-old would emerge as the new Kanye, but with all that talk of “rap songs”, could we expect something a bit more up-tempo than that song usual?
But no, ‘When We Were Young’ sounds exactly like that song Adele usually does. It’s a good song! There’s a tremulous piano intro, some fragile guitar and that voice which acts as a reminder – if you needed it – of what sets her apart from all those X Factor hopefuls (the bit where she laughs through a pre-chorus is pure class).
But we’ve already had the album’s first single, ‘Hello’. Did we really need another that sticks so stringently to Adele’s formula? Ok, at the end there’s what you might, at a stretch, call ‘soulful backing vocals’ but that scarcely makes ‘When We Were Young’ the breath of fresh air it was billed as. At the end of the video (filmed live at London’s The Church studio) she says: “I’ve never done this before!” The trouble is – she has.