Most people don’t realize how close we came to losing one of the greatest vocalists of our time. After the smash success of her latest album 21, which gave the world such gems as “Someone Like You,” and “Rolling in the Deep” Adele planned to quit the music business entirely. She got married and had her first child during her hiatus, and a bout with writers block seemed to crystallize her decision. However, an extended writing session with producer Greg Kustin shook her out of her funk, and she exploded onto our radios again with the new single “Hello,” her first since contributing the title track to the James Bond film Skyfall in 2012.
In many ways, “Hello” represents a logical evolution from her previous single. Like “Skyfall,” “Hello” allows Adele to show off her incredible belting abilities, but even more so, as the music largely recedes to the background and exists only to support her vocals. That’s not to say the music isn’t important or interesting; the minimalist piano notes help to create the haunting mood that pervades the song. By the time the “Hello from the other side,” in the chorus hits, the listener knows that Adele is back and better than ever.
I wondered if her marriage and children would influence the themes of her songs, and while she retains the poignant, bittersweet sound she had before, the lyrics represent a slight shift from what we’ve heard from Adele before. Rather than talking about someone who broke her heart (like she spent most of 21 doing), “Hello” is directed at someone whose heart she broke in the past. Though as she says in the chorus, she realized her error too late, and the other person has moved on without her. While that’s the face-value interpretation, one could also extend the metaphor and interpret it as Adele talking about her past memories in general. Maybe there is more than one person or occurrence she feels sorry for now that she’s in a stable place in her life. The music video features Adele calling a younger version of herself, which could serve as evidence of this.
Either way, “Hello” features Adele doing what she does best: blowing away listeners with soaring vocals. I’ll be interested to see if the lyrical shift we heard in this song is reflected in the rest of her upcoming album, 25. Many artists stick to one type or mood of song and never really deviate from it, which sometimes can result in their sound becoming stale after awhile. One can only hope that someone as talented as Adele can avoid falling into that trap.