By Kelly Dearmore
When it comes to her recorded output, there’s no doubt that Adele prefers the impact of paramount quality over bottom-line-boosting quantity. For example, her trio of studio LPs over the past dozen years has yielded but a pair of cover songs. But what covers they are.
Bob Dylan’s Time Out of Mind standout “Make You Feel My Love” and The Cure’s 1989 smash “Lovesong” are two selections beyond reproach. Together they represent a set of bookends, indicative of Adele’s overall strengths as both a writer and a translator.
It’s not unheard of for covers to almost become the primarily accepted version of a song (see: Johnny Cash’s haunting take on Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” or Jeff Buckley’s beloved version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”). We’re not saying Adele’s versions overtake either of the originals in question, but certainly she bends both tunes to her will in such a way that there’s little comparison to their counterparts.
For his part, Dylan is pretty much a unanimous pick for anyone erecting an American songwriter’s Mount Rushmore. And for her part, Adele’s own songwriting prowess
has not only served to limit the amount of covers she’s recorded, but it’s helped to lift her status far beyond what a typical pre-fab pop star’s would be. Adele’s rendition of “Make You Feel My Love,” from her 2008 debut 19, is a heart-stoppingly romantic gem recontextualized into a stirring storm on a raging sea - awash in gorgeous string and piano treatments - that offers the warmest of audio embraces.
Adele’s take on “Lovesong,” from the 2011 mainstream breakthrough 21, shows a young singer recreating an even more momentous number in her own image. With sparse production and little more than a soul-intensive classical guitar to accompany her, she lets the beauty of “Lovesong” speak for itself. With all due respect to 311, who also topped the charts with this Cure song in 2004, Adele’s take is the take.
Each of Adele’s albums serves as a snapshot into a certain period of her life. “Make You Feel My Love” and “Lovesong,” meanwhile, give a glimpse into the songbird’s record collection. She clearly has impeccable taste.
Kelly Dearmore is a music writer based in Dallas. He has written for The Dallas Morning News, Houston Press and Lone Star Music.