From 21 to 25, it’s been a complicated road with me and Adele.
In January of 2012, I took a weekend trip to Carolina Beach with some friends. We did what all college kids do at the beach – drink too much, stay up late, eat shitty food, ignore each other only when we were on our phones. But we did one thing – we all gathered together on the last full day to watch Adele’s live concert at the Royal Albert Hall.
The event was marked with my friends gushing about how much they connect with Adele. I sat there and watched as my friends laughed, cried and sang along as if our ruddy beach condo transformed into the Albert Hall itself. I admired the way my friends came together to enjoy it without any false pretense. If you have the ability to release yourself entirely into the words and songs of an album to the point where that person on stage feels like your best and maybe only friend, I’m envious. Sitting there as my friends let their walls down while mine stayed firmly up, they noticed, and I left the room because I felt better about taking a walk on the beach than killing the Adele vibes swimming through the room.
21 was released at a time when I wanted anything that had to do with confronting emotions to fuck off. The themes of abject heartbreak, attempts to revive yourself that don’t work, that tennis court back and forth of being over it and all consumed – but what else? Great pop album? Yes. Great for me at the time? No way. Like everyone with a pulse, I wanted my heartache to be a special little snowflake that no one else understood. Adele’s breakup was relatable for so many millions of people, but she wasn’t talking about my breakup, so 21 fell deaf on my ears.
My own emotional immaturity from days past aside, I like Adele, a lot. Adele doesn’t need to be anything but herself, and more artists can learn from that. She takes her salvation, higher-than-heaven-and-Jesus-himself vocal arrangements into a pop realm that shines over her contemporaries mar with smoke and mirrors. Her minimalist aesthetic approach to her maximalist performances target The Music, everything from a hair-raising minor piano key to the lush, symphonic choruses. All the while, she remains entirely relatable because her lyrics are as such. She’s sung about breaking up and on her new album, she’s singing about making up. And now we have “Hello.”
The video has garnered 1 million more views since I checked it out 30 minutes ago. Everyone and their mother is excited about it, reposting, sharing, gushing, thrilled. My mom just texted me saying “Yay Adele!” with a music note emoji.
I’m back at the beach house. How am I going to feel about this album, now that I’m 25 and Adele’s grown too? It might be too late for Adele to make her mark on me the way so many have felt her presence. That’s alright – I’m going to chalk this one up to a simple disconnect. I met Adele through her music and we should have worked out, but didn’t. The timing, like many things in love and life, was all wrong.
One thing is for sure: Adele’s gonna make her audience feel again, lead them hand-in-hand to stand at the edge of a grey shore to gaze out at the Unknown oceans of love and loss while reassuring it’s all going to be OK. That’s all the world wants from Adele, and nothing more.