Hello, how are you?
Those four words, a thousand calls and a million miles helped solidify Adele as the artist of our generation.
Adele shied away from the spotlight following the monumental success of her now diamond-certified album, 21, focusing on motherhood while waiting for inspiration to strike. She admitted in recent interviews the hiatus was lengthy because nothing felt interesting enough to move pen to paper – the heartbreak thing felt like a million years ago. Instead, she opted for a “make-up record,” 25, a gathering of songs co-created by veteran music producers like Greg Kurstin (“Hello”), Max Martin & Johan Shellback (“Send My Love [To Your New Lover]”), OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder (“Remedy”) and Danger Mouse (“River Lea”). She’s “making up for lost time. Making up for everything I ever did and never did.”
Her lead single, “Hello,” debuted atop the charts and became the first single ever to sell one million downloads in a week. The sullen piano ballad attached itself to listeners because it invokes real emotions of painful memories most of us suppress or moved on from. Or have we? At least we can say that we’ve tried. The music video was a sepia-tinted, eerie recollection of rejection and unsalvageable loss, yet it managed to become the most viewed video in 24 hours. The record breaking is endless – she’s on track to pulverize a 15-year-old title for most albums sold in one week, previously set by *NSYNC for 2000’s No Strings Attached.
“Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” pulls the listener out of the bluesy trance “Hello” forged as the opener. In the Max Martin & Johan Shellback-produced ditty, Adele proves how far she’s come since 21‘s “Someone Like You.” No longer scorned by an ex, she forgives a former lover for destroying promises, but wishes him and his new beau the best. She sings, “Send my love to your new lover / Treat her better / We gotta let go of all our ghosts / We both know we ain’t kids no more.” It’s an uplifting and infectious pop cut that features just the guitar? OK, cool.
Adele slaps us back to a roaring reality with “I Miss You.” Her vocals blare across the room in the Paul Epworth-produced song about wearing rose colored glasses. Much like “Hello,” “I Miss You” is longing for the past, but knowing the memory is sweeter than the harsh reality. “I miss you when the lights go out / It illuminates all of my doubts / Pull me in, hold me tight / Don’t let go, baby give me light.”
That’s Adele’s power over us. She shows us the cracks in the mirror of our past, forcing the listener to recall a reflection we buried and the seven years of bad luck we wish to forget. In “When We Were Young,” written with Tobias Jesso Jr., Adele transcends time and space. She says the song is based on her “being at a party at this house, and seeing everyone that you’ve ever fallen out with, everyone that you’ve ever loved, everyone that you’ve never loved… where you can’t find the time to be in each other lives. And you’re all thrown together at this party when you’re like 50, and it doesn’t matter and you have so much fun and you feel like you’re 15 again.”
The piano-stricken song “Remedy” was a turning point on 25. Up til’ now, Adele delivered a handful of songs about the remembrance of love, but her Ryan Tedder collaboration shows us the unconditional side to it. Tedder let Adele mold it into an ode to her son Angelo. “She immediately said, ‘This is about my kid,’” he told the New York Times. “That unlocked the whole lyric. And it was done, written and recorded that day.” The emotional ballad is enduring, serious, intimate, a rare peek into her world outside the delirious heartache spells she continually sends us on.
“Water Under The Bridge” might be our favorite track off the record. It’s triumphant chorus makes waves and is a valiant effort to assist Adele in her move towards her version of pop. Adele shares a lack of confidence in a thriving relationship, but it’s her own undoing. “‘Water Under the Bridge’ is more like, I’m waiting for him to be horrible but I don’t think he’s gonna be, waiting for the relationship to end,” Adele told Zane Lowe of the song. “This is the relationship now that I’m gonna be in. It was quite a groundbreaking moment.” She sings, “If you’re gonna let me down, let me down gently / Don’t pretend that you don’t want me / Our love ain’t water under the bridge.”
That water under the bridge might be “River Lea,” her Danger Mouse collaboration brimming with gospel. The melancholy slow-song for “Love In The Dark” borrows a theme in “I Miss You,” but moves at a glacial pace. Fitting, considering she sings about the tail-end of a relationship in ruin. “I can’t love you in the dark / It feels like we’re oceans apart / There is so much space between us / Maybe we’re already defeated.” Adele extends her self-inflicted agony by remembering the past in another timeless moment heard throughout the guitar-drenched ballad “Million Years Ago.”
“I will leave my heart at the door,” Adele sings in “All I Ask.” Backed by only a piano, Adele questions if she’ll ever love again as she begins her descent to loneliness. It’s depressing, but heartfelt, and a question we ask ourselves immediately following the loss of relationship gone up in flames.
Surely Adele wouldn’t leave us hanging like that, so she carefully placed the “Sweetest Devotion” track at the end. Like “Remedy,” the upbeat tune is about her son. “The song is all about my kid,” she said. “The way I’ve described it is that something much bigger has happened in my life. I love that my life is now about someone else.”
Pick any song off 25, and you’re engulfed in some aspect of love from Adele’s future, present or past life. She will undoubtedly make history with her latest LP, but she’s not interested in that. The blogosphere has over-analyzed her feats with astounding detail in recent weeks, losing sight of why she’s massively influential. Her talent to force listeners to face the music is unparalleled, and that gift will permeate to millions over the next year.
Come 2016, Adele will tour the world to promote one of the best-selling records of all time, but afterwards… she’ll disappear. Back into the depths of her beautiful mind to rediscover who she is as an adult venturing into her thirties. To say hello from the other side.