Adele’s new haunting melody is a hit, a meme, a Vine category, and is resonating something deep with listeners – here’s a look at Hello… from the other side.
I love weddings. I was MCing a wedding reception about a month ago where something absolutely beautiful happened – the bride shared a stunning rendition of Only Hope by Swithfoot (but the Mandy Moore version that everyone knows from A Walk To Remember), and she sang it for her husband. Such a beautiful sight and a beautiful sound on a happy day. Having not heard the song in ages, I went home to see if I could find a version of it that was as good as hers, and I discovered a group called The Gardiner Sisters. After finding out they also did a stellar Oceans cover, I pulled down a whole bunch of their songs and became a fan of their harmonies pretty quickly. A few weeks ago, they released a cover of the overnight success that is Adele’s Hello, which had thousands and thousands of hits in a matter of hours. It was soon after this I realized this song was a phenomenon. Every single meme was replaced with Adele’s intervention, a whole bunch of my friends would fill in the rest of the lyrics after I just said hello to them, and the song was getting featured across multiple talk shows and news sites.
Even tonight I was at an event where all the jokes quickly turned towards reciting the lyrics after greeting some people who walked in a little bit late. This song is a much bigger deal than I’d thought. But why? What is it about this song that launched it into the number 1 spot in almost every music chart, as well as giving it platinum status in multiple countries? Why are all my John Cena/RKO memes now Adele interrupting that kid dancing with a phone call? Why can’t I say hello to anyone without a smirk followed by, “It’s me”? Let’s have a look.
Adele’s Hello isn’t exactly a love song. One of her other biggest hits, Rolling In The Deep, actually has some pretty similar theming to this one, and once again, Adele and her producers are rolling in the dollars. Unfortunately, like Tay Tay, it seems her success is entirely driven by writing songs about her consistently broken heart. Although this time around, this song is quite different – this one is actually a song of regret, rather than as much a song of desire. Check out the first verse:
Hello, it’s me
I was wondering if after all these years
You’d like to meet, to go over everything
They say that time’s supposed to heal ya
But I ain’t done much healing
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
There’s such a difference between us
And a million miles
Pretty humbling stuff. Add to that the haunting voice of Adele or those who’ve also carried the song and you have a hit that hits you right in the feels.
Regret is one of the most awful sensations a person can experience. If you’re on Facebook or Instagram, you might’ve seen a photo that’s done the rounds from Anne Frank – “dead people receive more flowers than living ones because regret is stronger than gratitude”. That’s a pretty brutal sentiment and I’m not sure I entirely agree with that comment, but nevertheless a fair case can be made for the impact that regret has on a person’s heart and mind. Heck, look at this song. The whole song is about trying to make amends years later, when the title character discovers the source/target of their feelings has long since moved on.
When I was in Japan last year, I had it really highlighted to me just how exploratory we are through things like art, stories and music. Many people I met were very very friendly, but also quite reserved. Having talked to a number of them, they had expressed how they felt their own culture was not open to discussing private matters. However, you have a look at some of their games or TV shows and you find that at the very core of most of these are some immensely deep and real issues – exploring loss, challenging the idea of fate controlling your life, dealing with forgiving yourself and not being able to accept who you are (I wrote about this experience in Silent Pain after I got back). Amazing how the main way these issues seemed to be explored wasn’t by talking about them, but by producing stories in games and anime that explored them.
I think this song allows the listener to do the same. I mean, our Western culture is pretty much the same when it comes to this song, right? We won’t say “wow these lyrics are really messing with me”, we’ll just purchase it en masse and turn it into a meme and a cash tycoon, when really it is enabling so many people to explore a deeper issue in our lives.
And from the other side, the title character looks back trying to apologize for something that isn’t really explained, in search for… something. Why is this person calling years later? Is it really just to say sorry?
I wonder what it is in our lives that we have a Hello moment with. Maybe like the title character it’s a relationship long gone. A person we hurt or feel in hindsight we misunderstood. Maybe it’s a friendship where we let the distance creep in. Maybe it’s even something like a career or encouragement opportunity that came up and we let slip away.
I think when it comes to regret, prevention is better than cure. The song is a solemn reminder to make the most of every opportunity where we are. I think I’d like to live my life proving Anne Frank wrong – I would love my gratitude and mindfulness of my current situation to be far greater than the disappointment that hindsight may bring. What if we gave our very best to every moment? Our pastor on Sunday was talking about the power of finishing what we started, living fully committed, never giving half of ourselves to anything but being fully there. I think living with an attitude like that helps avoid having to make Adele’s phone call later on.
As for dealing with regret afterwards, it really is a difficult thing. I guess one thought is whether or not it is too late to do something about it. I don’t think it’s ever too late to do the right thing. I can think back to friendships and relationships and family situations where a phone call or a visit needed to be made to just set it right. To forgive, to reassure, to work it out. Jesus said that even if you were in the middle of a spiritual activity and are reminded of a grievance with someone, to leave your activity and go sort it out. Keeping short accounts goes a long way to ensuring we’re not dragging the past into our future.
And she’s also trying to heal all these years later still. They say time heals all wounds. It’s not true. Time and treatment does. If I get a deep cut in my leg or arm, and don’t treat it, but just hope it’ll heal with time, I’ll end up with a gangrenous wound that could affect other parts of my body, or even my life. I think the other pains in our lives are the same if we leave them without getting them properly treated.
And then there’s the art of moving forward. I wonder what the title character of the song is really after in making her desperate plea? I think it’s given away in the second verse – “it’s no secret that the both of us are running out of time”. Maybe there is a discontentment that the best opportunity to move forward was “back there”. They say you never know what you’ve got til it’s gone – another statement I’m not really sure I want to live by. I’d rather give my best to being fully aware of all I’ve been blessed with in this moment here. I know that’s pretty idealistic and it is certainly an endeavour most of us set out with – I guess there are still some things that you don’t really have awareness of until they’re not there anymore.
But perhaps the issues of the past are supposed to stay there. We go revisiting doors that we closed because we don’t see too many open ones ahead of us – whether that be relationally, careerwise, or as it pertains to our calling. Maybe there really are better days ahead that don’t involve the artifacts of our past.
That said, the song is also a reminder of the things we leave behind. Specifically, the people. Is there actually something more left in the people you used to know? The ones you used to spend more time with? The ones that due to falling out or distance you’ve drifted from, but not found contentment or peace? Perhaps the opposite is true – maybe the way forward is going back to the initial instruction or direction. Making amends and trying to build a better me, and to take the right steps as this road unwinds. I wonder if the lady in the song or the man in reality or the listener feeling the same way actually will find an answer.
It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing.
I think something that’s great about reflecting on a song like this is that it keeps you humble and kills the pride in your life. It really takes you down to your heart and asks you to consider what are the most important things to you, who you are, and where you’re going. And it’s not the fact that she’s been in California dreaming that makes this song such a hit – it’s the fact the writer and the listener are given a chance to face their deepest feelings, and hopefully move forward into the place they’re supposed to be.
Anyway, just a look at another big hit. If you liked this one, I also had a look at Demi Lovato’s Heart Attack a while ago. I think it’s fascinating why certain songs really resonate with such a large amount of people. I also wrote about some songs that really spoke to me too, so hit that up if you’re interested.
But over to you, my dear reader. Hello from the other side. What did you think of the song? Overrated? Want John Cena’s Superslam to come back in your favourite Vines? Loved it? Adele junkie? Share your thoughts with the world and myself below.