Adele is going more Streisandy here than ever. Like Barbra, Adele favors cinematic, swelling melodies lifted by her aching phrasing.
Steve Leftridge: Adele is going more Streisandy here than ever. And not just in the eye makeup and the red nails. With these two new powerhouse ballads, first “Hello” and now “When We Were Young,” she’s nestling into a democratizing sweet spot, one that makes tweens and grandmothers alike go weak in the knees. Like Barbra, Adele favors cinematic, swelling melodies lifted by her aching phrasing, here pushing her voice hard and, at times, scraping the top of her range. And like Babs, she’s a lyrical sentimentalist, pining for the way we were, back when Neil Diamond still gave her flowers. That was back when we were young, back when Streisand was on the radio all the time. If you’re too young to remember those days, well, Adele’s sweeping triumphs at least give you a glimpse back at the monoculture. [8/10]
Dustin Ragucos: Sure, it isn't the album version -- unless it totally is -- of the track. However, that still doesn't shoo away particular DJ nightmares. It's not hard to imagine two dozen horny adolescents going up to the song queue for a dance and inserting this track countless times. It'll be the equivalent of John Mulaney's "Salt and Pepper Diner" joke. There's magic in the chorus to "When We Were Young", but each high note Adele pronounces is incredibly predictable. Slow dance after slow dance won't feel old to each couple too absorbed by the tune. But someone is bound to destroy the DJ's table... [5/10]
Jordan Blum: It’s interesting to hear all of the background preparation leading up to the performance; in a way, it humanizes the musicians. As for the song itself, it shows once again why Adele is so respected for her emotive and soulful voice. She truly sings with conviction. Instrumentally, the delicate blend of percussion, piano chords, choral harmonies, and sharp guitar notes provides a nice foundation for her spotlight. It’s not an especially fresh sound, but its tastefulness can’t be denied. I wouldn’t be surprised if this wound up on a film soundtrack in 2016. [7/10]
COMBO SCORE: 6.66