People Are Upset That Everyone Is Spoiling Adele Lyrics, But Can an Album …

21 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Adele still mines heartbreak masterfully on ’25’.

When British singer Adele reintroduced herself last month after a four-year absence, time seemed to stand still. “Hello,” the first single from third studio album “25,” shattered records previously held by the likes of Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus.

On the one hand, it’s the nightmare scenario of the embittered ex calling up years later to offer a reminder of quite how well you did to get out of the relationship – she must have called a thousand times, and “they say that time’s supposed to heal you, but I ain’t done much healing”. It’s the first song to rack up more than 1 million digital sales in a single week. “Hello” is the perfect first single, capturing everything we love about Adele.

But another theory we’ve seen is that this is actually Adele speaking to her broken-hearted self of the past, to apologise for putting herself in the position to endure the unimaginable misery of being dumped. “At least I can say that I’ve tried / To tell you I’m sorry for breaking your heart,” she sings, which might just about lend some credence to that interpretation, since the rest of the song – if addressed to another person – sounds very much like the words of the dumpee rather than the dumper. Commitment issues, ahoy. “You told me you were ready for the big one,” Adele sings. “I’d be your last love, everlasting, you and me / That was what you told me.” But, abruptly, she’s given him up and is busy sending her love to his new lover. It’s possible some of the logic-jumping is down to co-writer Max Martin, who takes the line that the meaning of lyrics is less important than their sound, a theory he calls “melodic math”. When Adele, 27, released her first single off the highly-anticipated album ’25’ a few weeks ago, it was like the Brit was personally calling the world like an old friend.

They’re the kinds of sales figures record executives probably thought they’d never see again in an era when moving tens of thousands of units can get you to No. 1. Many expected this to be a tortured song about getting left behind, but in actuality, it’s an anthem for anyone who is ready to get on with their own damn life. “Send my love to your new lover / Treat her better / We’ve gotta let go of all of our ghosts / We both know we ain’t kids no more. The timing of 25, as the new record is titled, is even more fortuitous given that the industry’s previous savior, Taylor Swift’s 1989, has begun its inevitable commercial descent, plummeting to a scrawny 14 on this week’s Billboard 200 after selling 5.3 million copies in the U.S. alone since its release a little more than a year ago. The overall sentiment, though, was expressed rather more elegantly by EE Cummings: “if this should be, i say if this should be- / you of my heart, send me a little word; / that i may go unto him, and take his hands, / saying, Accept all happiness from me. / Then shall i turn my face, / and hear one bird sing terribly afar in the lost lands.” This one, Adele says, is “about intimacy on every level.

Here’s what’s interesting: for most artists these days, growing your music means experimenting with the sound and evolving with the technological landscape of music. It probably says something that this decade’s three genuinely transcendent pop stars, Adele, Swift and Beyoncé, are all women and that two of them are using their album titles to tell us how old they are. (Sort of: Swift was born in 1989 but Adele is actually 27.) At any rate, that’s a subject for another essay.

With its tight, elegant pop numbers and tear-jerking ballads, 25 strays only fleetingly from the styles that made her a star, but there’s no harm in sticking to tradition when you can sing like this. And falling out of love is my favorite way to feel as well,” she told me in 2009. “I used to feel really empty if I didn’t have a guy in my life — whether it’s just a fling or having a crush on someone. So, “I love the way your body moves / Towards me from across the room / Brushing past my every groove / No one has me like you do” is undoubtedly affirmative, but Adele didn’t become the biggest star in the world by telling everyone how happy she is, so the chorus sinks back into the emotional twilight: “I miss you when the lights go out / It illuminates all my doubts / Pull me in, hold me tight / Don’t let go, baby give me light.” Adele’s success is built on being an everywoman: her songs are specific enough to sound true, but general enough that they sound less like a personal statement of despair than a hug from someone who knows exactly what you’ve been through. This hankering for a more innocent era is at its most potent on When We Were Young, an Elton-like piano ballad co-written with relatively unknown but hugely talented Canadian musician Tobias Jesso Jr.

It’s hard for me to make a definitive proclamation, since I’ve only had 36 hours with the album; music needs time to reveal its depths, or lack thereof. Powered by plangent chords, gospel backing singers and a lead vocal of sustained power from Adele, its wall of sound rises towards a tumultuous finale, with the singer reminiscing about an old flame while admitting: ‘I’m so sad at getting old, it makes me restless.’ It already has the feel of a modern standard. But the new record’s mix of classic R&B, timelessly roof-rattling ballads, and contemporary pop is very much in keeping with its predecessor: familiar yet not too familiar, and instantly gripping because it’s all sung by that voice. The throat surgery she underwent following a vocal hemorrhage in 2011 has done nothing to diminish either its character or power; brassy yet husky, smoky yet clarion, she still sounds like the result of a genetic experiment fusing Amy Winehouse’s vocal chords with Céline Dion’s lungs, or even Tom Jones’s.

Conversational single Hello strikes a conciliatory note, with Adele seeking to restore her self-confidence on ‘the other side’ of a traumatic split. It’s a recognisable genre of song – as Alexis Petridis points out in his review of 25, this is basically the same message as Fix You – yet for all the apparent generosity of its message, there’s something intensely self-aggrandising about this style of song. Having won seven Grammys and two Brits with 21, the singer — on BBC1 tonight on the show Adele At The BBC — doesn’t take many chances here, although the two numbers on which she does venture on to fresh musical ground are rewarding.

With just the piano and her voice to guide the lyrics, you can really appreciate what she’s singing about, as well as how beautiful it sounds when she sings. There’s a glossy ’70s sweep throughout it and much of the album, adding soul to so many heartbreaking lyrics. (“Let me photograph you in this light/In case it is the last time/That we might be exactly like we were/Before we realized/We were sad of getting old.”) The Danger Mouse-produced “River Lea” has a gothic quality that evokes long coats and windswept hair. For those of you itching for the second coming of a “Rumor Has It” type track, I’m afraid the scorned lover Adele used to be doesn’t make much of an appearance on this record.

It’s opening lines – “Everybody tells me it’s ’bout time that I move on/And I need to learn to lighten up and learn how to be young” – a clever commentary on Adele’s persona. “All I Ask” riffs elegantly on Dionne Warwick’s “I’ll Never Love This Way Again.” There is, in fact, a Burt Bacharach-esque quality to many of the songs. “I Miss You” is dark and pleading. With the help of serial collaborators, some returning, some new, she has conceived another batch of real songs, with real melodies, not just strings of hooks and naked, genuine-seeming emotions. The Ryan Tedder-produced “Remedy” harks back to debut album “19” with its spare piano and somber delivery. “Million Years Ago” is the album’s most devastating moment, a powerful and poignant ballad that’s destined to shatter hearts.

Songs like “Love In The Dark” and “When We Were Young” highlight her unique edge and insight when singing about lost love, and “Water Under The Bridge” is a perfect ode to a dysfunctional relationship that you just can’t shake free of. On the other, she knows he’s not a good bet. “I want you to be my keeper / But not if you are so reckless.” She can’t let him go, but she can’t let him stay.

It starts out sounding like something off Lana Del Rey’s recent album, Honeymoon, with Adele’s voice taking on a flat affect as she sings over vaguely sinister keyboard chords: Hello, it’s me. She closes the album with “Sweetest Devotion,” a track I can only assume is dedicated to her little family of boyfriend Simon Konecki, 41, and son Angelo. “There is something about the way you love me,” she sings, “that finally feels like home.” Its valley is symbolic of the changes to London across the centuries – in the 17th century, a manmade tributary of the Lea, the New River, was made to divert clean drinking water to London; this century, the lower Lea Valley was completely reshaped for the 2012 Olympics. This time she’s the one who’s no longer in love, but feeling the stigma of the one who has to be cruel: “Take your eyes off me so I can leave / I’m far too ashamed to do it with you watching me.” It’s as if the act of breaking up with someone renders one naked, with every blemish exposed, hence the need for darkness. This is a lyric set that will resonate with those caught in unhappy relationships – they’ll pore over it, seeking the justification for what they know they need to do.

What’s wrong?’” She spoke about how differently people react to her now: “When I walk into a room full of people that I don’t know, they stop talking. And I’ll go further: as a confessional blockbuster, 25 will prove a worthy successor not just to 21 but also Tapestry, Rumours, and Jagged Little Pill. By the album’s penultimate track, it’s hard not to wonder if Adele might perhaps leave the songs about relationships in their death-throes to one side.

UPDATE: Since this review was first published, it has been amended to reflect the fact that Aretha Franklin has indeed covered “Rolling in the Deep”. Once again, it’s as though the lyrics have been focus-grouped for maximum accessibility, which is curious, because her personality is anything but focus-grouped. What would be truly intriguing would be an album whose lyrics reflected the mouthy, funny Adele of her speech, rather than Adele, the Queen of the Lovelorn Ballad.

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