It’s such a striking opening to a song. And not just because of its obvious meme power. Immediately it puts the singer on the back foot, apologetic, exposed. In one short sentence, Adele has drawn us into the song, and the start of a new album cycle.
The real power of Adele’s songwriting, as this one phrase exemplifies, is its simplicity. Just as she herself shuns the limelight and fame, her lyrics too remain grounded in reality. We can all relate to her songs, we can read into them our own experiences. Hello is no different. “Hello from the other side”, she calls in the thunderous chorus. But what is the “other side”? The other side of a relationship? The world? Life? Is this a song about a breaking relationship? A friendship? A death? That’s not for her to answer. Adele delivereth and we doth receive.
At the essence of Adele’s sound is a balance between delicacy and power. That opening lyric immediately instills a sense of intimacy before the lofty, sweeping chorus melody that’s as cinematic as anything she’s sung before. Greg Kurstin’s subtle yet pop production matches this, gentle piano chords making way for a richer texture that gradually layers in tiny moments: the muted beats; the hushed backing vocalists; the way the drums launch us into the final chorus; those declamatory church bells; the way her breath catches in her throat after the final note. Through its construction and performance, it is quite simply a beautiful pop song.
Then there’s the video. Directed by Xavier Dolan who’s 2014 film Mommy was a critical success, its sepia tone and soft focus emphasise the theme of reminiscence, as well as literally showing Adele in a beautiful light. More so, it eschews the obvious sense of drama in the song, telling a moving love story that supports the song – what every good pop video should do. Just don’t mention that horrible flip phone…
Hello, then, is the pop song that every other artist who’s released a song in 2015 wishes they’d written. The countdown to ‘25’ begins now.
Hello Adele. It’s good to have you back.
Listen: Hello is out now, ‘25’ is released on 20th November.