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21 (XL)

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Here’s a talent worthy of the hype. The London-based singer Adele, who names albums for her age at the time, won two Grammys with her debut. 21 fulfills every promise suggested by 19 and raises a few more. Like Amy Winehouse, Adele’s a sharp songwriter with great support, absorbing the richness of vintage soul and adding a brassy British sheen. The power in those lungs brings to mind Florence Welch, but with the thunder diffused into melody. Adele delivers honey, sandpaper and fury, frequently tossing in an extra sweet note at the end of a phrase. There will be imitators. 21 seems to be packed with potential hits. To choose one, “Set Fire to the Rain” has the potential to embody 2011 given its preposterous metaphor, Spectorian grandeur and spellbinding execution.

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