Friday, October 30th, 2015

Adele – Hello

Hi! Welcome back!

Nina Lea Oishi: Hello, it’s Adele. She’s back, and not much has changed. If you’d told me “Hello” was actually from Adele’s album 21, I would have believed you because “Hello” follows the Adele tried and true marks so closely: heartbreak, melancholy, big swelling choruses. An Adele song is like a Nicholas Sparks movie with gravitas.

Thomas Inskeep: Friends compare Adele’s 21 to Thriller in commercial behemoth terms; a more accurate comparison is to Norah Jones’s Come Away with Me, a freak AC monster that crossed over to every quadrant of the music-buying public imaginable (and dominated the Grammys too). Remember Jones’s follow-up? Feels Like Home famously sold 1M+ in its opening week, and Adele’s 25 may well do the same. And it may not suffer the same fate as Home. Where that album made a left turn, based on “Hello” Adele offers more overblown drama queen balladry. Nothing about this song is surprising to anyone who heard 21. Is this quote-unquote quality? Sure. Does that matter? Not a bit.

Jessica Doyle: I know everyone started making Lionel Richie jokes, but I can’t be the first person to think that Todd Rundgren is the better referent. He said, “Maybe I think too much,” then shrugged, offered freedom as a balm, and hoped he might stay the night anyway. She apologizes for talking too much about herself, and it’s not clear whether it’s heartfelt or a repeat of a criticism flung in her face. (Or both.) He argued for inertia; she alternates between not wanting to hurt her ex and resenting the lack of proof that her ex is hurt. Her “Hello” thus turns into an assertion of the value of passion, even if passion means packing ten emotions into an eight-line chorus and risking looking neurotic or selfish or pathetic or all of those things. I don’t gravitate toward this song, but then it makes me think of songs that I did gravitate to during breakups — Fiona Apple snarling “Fuckin’ go,” in 2001, Sarah McLachlan coming down hard on “How stupid could I be” three years later. I’m glad this “Hello” exists. I hope I never need it.

Alfred Soto: “Rolling in the Deep” sounded OK on the radio, the rest were easier to ignore, and that was the extent of my reaction to the 2011 phenomenon. Sam Smith and to a lesser extent Jessie Ware have benefitted from the renewed attention to belting Britishes, naturally. Navigating the familiar waters of “Hello,” Adele commits no mistakes from which her audience might recoil: the manipulation of silence and climax, the ginned-up drama, harmonies more interesting than the main vocal. Also, Neil Diamond’s “Hello Again” remains a supermarket staple. 

Katherine St Asaph: There’s a GIF going around my and perhaps your feed. You have almost certainly seen it: Taylor Swift getting memed on at some unspecified awards show by a cackling Adele. There’s a lot to be said (but not here) about competition between female artists and the stan-weaponizing and Team Edwardizing of everything, but it’s fitting because Adele does outdo Swift in one key respect: she is the most populist artist we have. My sister and her husband are visiting my mother and me this week: a casual radio listener, a Kings of Leon type, a classic-rock purist, and, uh, well; yet we have common ground. One of the first things he asked me was whether I’d heard the new Adele song. My mother asked if I’d cried. When we were out driving and “Hello” came on the radio, our conversation stopped dead. Between the three of us we have burst into every part of the chorus. I asked them how many times they sang it when I wasn’t around; they estimated twenty-two, then did it again. I’m writing this well before “Hello” would have gone No. 1 on Thursday — hello from the other side of the week! — and I’ve only edited this sentence on a chart-date technicality. You will hear a lot about “Hello.” You will hear a lot about how “Hello” is authentic when it uses every cheap production trick in the studio: cranking that first “hello” up to max and possibly even to Max; gently massaging the melody with Autotune. (Which is fine, because in case you forgot, Adele just got vocal surgery — you know, the same sort of surgery that destroyed Julie Andrews’ voice; I suppose you’re also against casts.) You may or may not hear that Adele’s schtick at this point is the female version of Crap Emails From a Dude (or, in other words, of Drake). You probably won’t hear that it’s a fourth-album-single version of “Set Fire to the Rain.” But there is something to be said for a song that tries to be all things to all people and largely is.

Mo Kim: The words don’t quite register as words, only as temporal, spatial, emotional distances: a million miles, when we were younger and free, hello from the other side, must have called a thousand times. Adele’s voice has the quality of a landscape, wrought from earthly feeling, but the impression I get from my drive-by listen of “Hello” is of a pretty, melancholy scene I will glimpse from my car window then never think of again. 

Edward Okulicz: This is more or less “Someone Like You” with the added politeness of calling before you show up out of the blue, uninvited. Sadly that politeness goes out of the window in the chorus, where Adele flails around trying to hit an emotion, any emotion. If ever a big moment of “feeling it” felt obligatory and forced, this is it. It’s a shame because the verses are really kind of lovely. Perhaps a cover of “Telephone Line” by ELO as a B-side is called for as an album bonus track.

Will Adams: There’s a warm comfort in the way “Hello” picks up exactly where “Someone Like You” left off: it’s years later, Adele has calmed herself from showing up uninvited, and yet the wound still feels fresh. In an industry where a three year absence might as well be millennia, Adele’s return feels as natural as her ability to command attention in the haunting first verse. There’s a bit of histrionics here (was the choir necessary?), and the song really could have used an actual bridge, but overall “Hello” is a welcome return.

Scott Mildenhall: Adele is, it could be argued, quite successful, and it’s good to hear her admit that. No longer is she the one left behind, spurned and stuck on the inside, but the one who made it outside, callously forgetting her prior loves and mistakes in the process. “Hello” is about the arrogance of thinking you can outgrow a person or place when they’re bound up in so much meaning and feeling, listening to “Hometown Glory” — which you wrote — and thinking “oh”. Only it’s not vocalised as an “oh.” It’s an unburdening wail, doomed to find only silence as a response. For once, the pity isn’t unequivocal.

Brad Shoup: A little unlike her previous world-smashers, “Hello” forsakes the throughline for lurching breakthroughs. She’s only gotten better at inhabitation: she can be a body, or she can be a ghost. The drums are drowning, echoes stain the air. It’s as dreadful as pop can get.

Reader average: [6.39] (23 votes)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

15 Responses to “Adele – Hello”

  1. I enjoyed Scott’s interpretation of this. Makes me like it a little more.

  2. Adele’s become much more interesting as a cultural phenomenon, and as charts monster, than as an artist. Scott and Brad’s blurbs do make me like it more, and I voluntarily listened to “Hello” for a few days straight, but at the end of the day I agree with Nina and Katherine.

  3. That’s nice of you both to say, thanks! For me it’s a case of “the same thing but different” with Adele. Suddenly she is the one with the sense of power; the heartbreaker, but when she comes to realise that, once again, the other party is no longer as bothered as she wants them to be by it all, she’s heartbroken too. Again. And doubly so.

  4. Why is everyone saying this sounds like 21?
    The vocals are much higher in the mix, there’s more polish, and it’s overall much poppier than the last album’s sound.
    If anything, it sounds more like 19.

  5. Actually I’d agree. The big PANCAKE OF EMOTION just reminds me that Adele is the artist who did “Chasing Pavements” which I absolutely hated.

  6. I’ve always been indifferent about Adele, but I caught this on the radio the other day and some of the phrasing reminded me distinctly of Dusty Springfield. It’s interesting because you’d think the similarities would run much closer, but this is the first time that she’s starting to edge into that worldliness-contained-within-girlishness that Dusty did so well.

  7. now my roommates are doing it

    does everyone else live in a parallel universe where people just don’t constantly sing adele around you?

  8. adele is playing at my house

    (by lcd soundsystem)

  9. does everyone else live in a parallel universe where people just don’t constantly sing adele around you?


  10. I keep hearing the chorus as “hallow from the outside” which somehow sounds less stagey than “hello from the outside”.

  11. Everyone in great form here. Katherine’s was breathtaking.

  12. joe jonas plz

  13. christ those high notes

  14. is this artpop?

  15. it could mean anything