By: Gabriela Yareliz
Adele was absent for a good while between 21 and 25, and she was busy. In mid-2011, (right around 21‘s success and release) Adele started dating Simon Konecki (who works in charity and water). They had a son in 2012 and got married in 2016 (in some places it says 2018), regardless of the marriage date, it means that when 25 came out, Adele and Konecki were parents and together (but not yet married). (Source) Shortly after formalizing their relationship, they separated. She filed for divorce in 2019, and they were divorced by 2021. (Source)
So, let’s zoom in a little on the timeline. When 25 launches, Adele is presumably happy and in a new stage of life. She is a mother and in a (what seemed like) happy relationship. This is her least heartbreaking album, one could argue. There is a different tone to it.
Adele relaunched herself into the world of music with her single, “Hello”. This song took six months to write. Yep, you read that right! Adele said about the song: “I felt all of us were moving on, and it’s not about an ex-relationship, a love relationship, it’s about my relationship with everyone that I love. It’s not that we have fallen out, we’ve all got our lives going on and I needed to write that song so they would all hear it, because I’m not in touch with them.” (Source) This is a departure from her previous songs.
The sense we get from this song is a solid block of maturity and adulting. She sounds really stable and settled in (which is refreshing).
The key vibe of album 25 is “nostalgia”. Apparently, it was a difficult album to record because she had writer’s block. (Source) After much persistence, she broke through.
“My last record was a break-up record, and if I had to label this one, I would call it a make-up record. Making up for lost time. Making up for everything I ever did and never did. 25 is about getting to know who I’ve become without realising. And I’m sorry it took so long but, you know, life happened.”Adele
Let’s focus on “Hello” specifically. Adele starts out by pointing out that ‘time heals all wounds’ is a fallacy:
/They say that time’s supposed to heal ya
But I ain’t done much healing/
You can go years, decades, a life, being unhealed if you aren’t intentional.
/Hello, can you hear me?
I’m in California dreaming about who we used to be
When we were younger and free
I’ve forgotten how it felt before the world fell at our feet/
Here, Adele brings us to where she was when she was writing. She had come to California. She brings us into the present moment where she feels she is experiencing her “turning point” into adulthood. Apparently, she feels the weight that comes with adulthood. There is a level of ‘carefree’ that one loses in the process of growing up.
/There’s such a difference between us
And a million miles/
I find this remark about distance to be interesting. While it’s true that we can be literally distant from someone (miles and kilometers), we also grow in emotional distance. Personally, I think one of the biggest damages social media and all the technology have done is to feed us this idea that we need to somehow stay in touch with every single person we have crossed paths with. I fundamentally disagree with this. I think there are people who serve different roles in our lives, and some are there for a season, and don’t get me wrong, some are there for life. But it’s totally ok to not hold on so tightly to people. It’s ok to say “hello” from the other side.
When the chorus kicks in, we see someone who is reaching out to a person for various reasons, to apologize for breaking their heart, to check in… In the following verse she asks, “Did you ever make it out of that town where nothing ever happened?”
The following verse is emphasized:
/Hello from the outside
At least I can say that I’ve tried
To tell you I’m sorry for breaking your heart
But it don’t matter, it clearly doesn’t tear you apart anymore/
The verse has a flavor of repentance, “At least I can say that I’ve tried.” She also notes the indifference of the person she is trying to reach out to; it doesn’t “tear” them apart. When she calls, they never seem to be home. This reminds me of landlines and the good old days. The video, with its sepia tones that remind us of Instagram’s early limited filters and the “retro” phones evoke that nostalgia for when we had to coordinate calls with people or we were left to leave a message because whomever we were trying to reach was unavailable, didn’t want to pick up or was simply living life.
We land on the idea that while nostalgia can be nice, it can also lead us to lonely and empty places. Change happens. When we return to certain places and certain people, we are left “on the outside.” It’s part of life. Adele likes to take us to those places of searching. This song, while not of heartbreak, is no different.