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Like fellow crooners Amy Winehouse and Kate Nash, Adele Adkins polished her skills at the Brit School in south London – as good a finishing academy as American Idol. Her debut, which topped the British charts earlier this year, lacks the bad-girl brio of those grads, but it shows off a vocal instrument that smokes the competition. Check out "Cold Shoulder," a lover's blues, produced by Winehouse's secret weapon, Mark Ronson: Over swirling strings and a snare pattern borrowed from James Brown's "Funky Drummer," Adele reads her man the riot act with a mix of Memphis-soulmama swoops and cockney-street-punk stops. "Melt My Heart to Stone" and "Tired," co-written with veteran U.K. hit-maker Eg White, are retro-modern R&B exercises with similar charm. On more sparsely arranged numbers, though – including a measured cover of Dylan's unlikely pop standard "Make You Feel My Love" – her marvelous technique can become cloying, and the boilerplate verses on her originals don't help. Here's hoping the girl's storytelling will one day be as interesting as her phrasing.

From The Archives Issue 1055: June 26, 2008