Single Review: Adele – ‘Set Fire To The Rain’

“More often than convention calls for, you’re left recoiling at her very essence”


Digital Release: July 4, 2011

Physical Release: N/A

When Adele’s not busy clogging up the top of the worldwide charts – both for singles and for albums – or belting her mighty voice out live on TV promotional slots, she’s still got time to do the impossible, or at least think she can do the impossible and ignite water.

Amongst the huge success of ‘Rolling In The Deep’ and ‘Someone Like You’ – a song now so overplayed it verges on becoming the next ‘You’re Beautiful’ – and the enormously successful ‘21’, the Tottenham-born popstrel has finally come around to releasing what was originally slated as the second single, but was put aside in favour of ‘Someone Like You’.

And in ‘Set Fire To The Rain’, Adele’s sweeps her listeners along in a strange limbo between the over-powering emotions felt on her aforementioned first two releases. In this dramatic power-ballad fully equipped with a mournful piano loop and cinematic strings, sings of testing a lover’s devotion after realising there was a “side to you that I never knew” in that signature cutting voice, which rings triumphantly with finely executed airs of quintessential femininity and a fiery, angered accusation, all of which bring the song to colossal new heights by the crescendo towards the end – heights that, naturally, can come across as quite a bit too much. It’s feels like Adele’s intoxicating misery is being forced through her listeners as she tries every possible trick in the book to convince her soulfulness, as if every song she sings is her first and must demonstrate her vocal capabilities to win hearts she’s already won. Sure, there’s bountiful emotion and depth behind every note sung on ‘Set Fire To The Rain’, but more often than convention calls for, you’re left recoiling at her very essence.

‘Set Fire To The Rain’ has it’s stronger points and it’s less strong points. It’s certainly a very emotive affair with a production that would slot seamlessly into a 1940’s black and white, silent film – but let’s make it clear this comparison is not made on account of the song feeling withered with age or that it’s out of fashion, but more of a commendation of the stylised vintage nuances of the era – but even so, it’s not quite as clear-cut as the grand musical productions of the ’40s, and though the sense of it trying to do so is admirable, the disappointing chorus and moments where Adele’s ‘growly’ voice sounds more like a stomach lurch from a large carnivore stop it from being the masterpiece it’s trying to be.


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