Adele’s 25: A Song-By-Song Analysis

Photo: Courtesy of XL Recordings.
It’s finally happened: Adele’s 25 is here. Four years after the release of 21 (the little-known album I’m playing down for comedic effect), the 27-year-old Grammy- and Oscar-winner has returned to beautifully articulating our feelings through song. (All while making us wonder how we lived on “Skyfall” alone for three bleak years.) But alas, I digress. To truly listen to 25, you must explore 25. And because I refuse to be a person who can listen to an album without overanalysing and screaming my opinions about it to excess, I’ve gone through the (non-deluxe) record and combed through the lyrics to make sense of my feelings and Adele’s, too.
Surprise, surprise — there are more than a few songs about breakups. 1. Title: “Hello”
Best Line: “But it don’t matter, it clearly doesn’t tear you apart anymore”
Thoughts/Feelings: If you were to stand at the edge of a cliff, à la the characters of Wuthering Heights, this would be the song to soundtrack your emotional moment. (See also: appropriate for lamenting over lost loves in gale-force winds.) “Hello,” as we are all aware, is an anthem for anyone who's ever assumed that their apology mattered to someone who’s long since forgotten about them. Basically, it’s the musical equivalent of dropping a text to an ex, convinced our olive branch will make or break the rest of their lives, and then receiving only “new phone who dis?” as a response. To us, our relationship was a ballad. To them, Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” 2. Title: “Send My Love” (To Your New Lover)
Best Line: “We gotta let go of all of our ghosts/ We both know we ain't kids no more”
Thoughts/Feelings: Remember that scene in Friends when Rachel calls Ross on a circa ‘95 mobile phone and, after suggesting that he name his cat Michael, declares that she is “over” him? (Of course you do.) This is Adele’s version, only with far less wine, and far more glad tidings for the future. (“Treat her better.”) I mean, sure, dude once promised to love her forever, and yeah, both of them are still hanging on to the past, but it’s time to move on. Which is easy to do, since this song is danceable, as all “I’m over it!” songs should be. And that, my friends, is what you call closure.
Photo: GHNASSIA/NMA2016/SIPA/REX Shutterstock.
3. Title: “I Miss You”
Best Line: “Baby you bring your heart, I'll bring my soul / But be delicate with my ego”
Thoughts/feelings: It’s sexy time. And honestly? Finally. Considering Adele’s been crowned the heartbreak queen, we deserve a track that’s a little more The Hills than "Hotline Bling." Enter: a song about the majesty of everything associated with the lyric, “harder baby” (if you know what I mean). Which yes, still carries breakup connotations thanks to the track’s title, but thanks to the song’s powerful melody (and faster tempo), we can assume that we’re talking about a long-distance relationship versus the end of one. Or maybe I’m just too optimistic for this album.
4. Title: “When We Were Young”
Best Line: “I was so scared to face my fears / Cause nobody told me that you’d be here / And I swore you moved overseas / That’s what you said, when you left me”
Thoughts/Feelings: Well, I’m not going to lie to you guys: This song is a bummer. Yes, Adele’s voice is beautiful. True, the lyrics are poignant and carry the perfect mix of sorrow and regret and necessary reflection on a relationship. But, I mean, we get it: When we were young, we were all idiots. And we also thought our relationships would last forever, and now here we are, romanticising things that were absolutely terrible at the time. (So, I am officially applying this song to my relationship with super-low-rise flared jeans.) 5. Title: “Remedy”
Best line: “I remember all of the things I wanted to be / So desperate to find a way out of my world / And finally breathe”
Thoughts/Feelings: Trust me on this one. You’ll hear the piano, hear Adele singing over the top of it, and you will assume that this song is on the same tier as “Someone Like You” (in that you will weep while listening, convinced it applies to your terrible life even though it doesn’t). Instead, it’s a promise: Via the lyrics, girlfriend is vowing to be there for someone forever and ever, amen, which officially makes this song the one you will hear at more than one wedding next year, so get set. 6. Title: “Water Under the Bridge”
Best Line: “If you’re gonna let me down, let me down gently”
Thoughts/Feelings: Behold! The song we will scream-sing from our cars and/or other respective modes of transportation, pretending we’re in the opening credits of a rom-com in which we’re starring. Sure, Adele is singing from a place of being totally hung up on someone who’s totally not right and sending mixed signals. But look, the tempo makes this the type of song you point in agreement to, just like Meryl Streep did at the Oscars this year. I mean, we’ve all been there. We’ve all liked terrible people. Or not-so-terrible people who happen to be wrong for us. We might as well get a few dance moves out of it.
7. Title: “River Lea”
Best Line: “I’m scared to death if I let you in you’ll see I’m just a fake”
Thoughts/Feelings: Impostor syndrome is real, and I wish this song were more about that than it is about hearts and hurting and hurting hearts. Basically, Adele blames her ability to hurt people on it being just the way she is. And, like, she’s sorry, but it’s the River Lea’s fault. In short, if this were your friend, you’d have to have a sit-down chat, and remind her that the only river you can use as an excuse for anything is the one Bruce Springsteen sings about. Reeds or lack thereof.
8. Title: “Love in the Dark”
Best Line: “Don’t try to change my mind / I’m being cruel to be kind”
Thoughts/Feelings: This is a breakup song. Or more specifically, this is that scene in a movie when somebody says, “Don’t say anything — don’t make this harder than it already is,” and then you yell at your TV and say, “What is wrong with you? Just say words!” This is Adele delivering the type of monologue you would lose your mind over if you heard it in a scripted context, and one that would prompt you to ask, “You didn’t actually say that, did you?” if your friend was filling you in on her breakup. It is poetic and lovely but should never, ever show up in your Facebook status space. 9. Title: “A Million Years Ago”
Best Line: “I try to think of things to say / Like a joke or memory / But they don’t recognise me now”
Thoughts/Feelings: Frankly, I can only sum up this song with the following sentiment: Just because Adele is famous doesn’t mean you can ignore and/or stare at her and/or treat her differently, people from her pre-fame life. I mean, come on, people.
10. Title: “All I Ask”
Best Line: “Hold me like I’m more than just a friend”
Thoughts/Feelings: Arguably, the above line really sums up my high school and university dating experiences. (I’ll never forget you, dudes I loved who talked to me about the crushes you had on my pals.) However, “All I Ask” is fortunately a little less tragic. Pre official breakup, Adele suggests one last night with a lover— a night that will allow them to revel in the majesty of their relationship and one that will breed “no regrets.” Even though, we all know, “no regrets” breeds only one thing: regrets.
11. Title: “Sweetest Devotion”
Best Line: “And there is something about the way you love me / That finally feels like home”
Thoughts/Feelings: Ending with a bang! And seriously, friends, how far we’ve come. Considering 25 kicks off with serious lamentations about the demise of a big relationship, it’s nice to wrap up the album (the non-deluxe version, anyway) with a tune that arguably embodies Adele’s relationship with her long-term partner and baby-daddy. (Especially since we hear a kid — her kid, maybe — speaking at the end.) So I guess in that vein, this record parallels the standard life-trajectory. You make mistakes, you fall in love, you make bigger mistakes, you regret, you revel, you reflect, and then, after winning Grammys and an Oscar, you move on. You also, hopefully, upgrade your flip phone. Those things never get any service when it’s windy.

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