“Hello… it’s me.” Adele, the voice of our generation and Taylor Swift’s biggest nightmare, is back with a massive new song. So let’s get this over with and just give Adele all of the Grammys now. After an unusually long hiatus of four years, during which time the music industry completely succumbed to unexceptional artists, the superstar returned on Friday with her new single “Hello.” The Greg Kurstin-produced track is the lead single for Adele’s first album in almost five years, “25,” which will set the music industry ablaze Nov. 20. “Hello” is her first song since her Academy Award-winning James Bond theme, “Skyfall.”
“25” is easily one of the most anticipated records in the industry’s history. For once, there is no hyperbole in that statement. While music sales have been slowing dying since the mid-2000s, Adele’s 2011 blockbuster album “21” captured the world’s heart and sold more than 30 million copies, the best-selling studio album since Santana’s 1999 album “Supernatural.” In the United States, “21” spent 24 weeks at number one, sold over 11 million copies, spawned three iconic number-one hits and earned six Grammys. It’s the fourth best-selling album of all time in her home nation, the United Kingdom.
“I’m sorry it took so long, but you know, life happened,” Adele wrote of the long gap between albums. In the interim since “21,” she’s settled down with a guy and had a child. Adele of 2015 is a far cry from the heartbroken Adele of 2011.
Making new music after the unprecedented success of “21” was unimaginably daunting for Adele, resulting in writer’s block and the abandonment of entire albums. “For a while I was like, maybe I shouldn’t come back,” she said. “Maybe I should go out on a high.” Luckily for the world, she decided to return to making music after the birth of her son in October 2012. But even then she was unhappy with her music direction. She first made a full-length album about motherhood but scrapped it because it was “too boring.” A breakthrough finally occurred when Adele hit the studio with Greg Kurstin, who has previously worked with Kelly Clarkson, Lily Allen and Ellie Goulding, and now we will all soon be blessed with the final result — “25” — which Adele refers to as a “make-up record.”
While Adele struggled to come up with a follow-up to “21,” the entire world has been on edge waiting for new music. Adele herself kicked off the hype for the album on her birthday in May 2014 when she tweeted, “Bye bye 25… See you again later in the year.” Reports have surfaced for months claiming to know the correct release date for the album, but there was nary a word from Adele herself. I assume she was sitting at home in her English manor, cackling as the world grew more and more desperate for music.
Adele finally broke her silence on Oct. 18 with a 30-second commercial during “The X Factor” in Britain. This small, 30-second preview of new Adele music sent everyone flying into high alert until Adele confirmed on Oct. 21 that “25” was indeed on its way. The wait has been a long one, but based on just the lead single, it certainly will be worth it.
“Hello” is as powerful as anything we sobbed our eyes out to on “21.” It’s a powerful, top-notch comeback, joining the ranks of “Chasing Pavements,” “Rolling in the Deep” and “Someone Like You” as incredible heartbreak songs. We truly aren’t worthy.
“Hello” finds Adele reaching out to a former lover, presumably the one that inspired “21.” She’s quiet and reserved during the verses but explodes in anguish during the unstoppable chorus. Once again, Adele’s personal lyrics strike a nerve – “I must have called a thousand times!” she laments. We’ve all been there. Her knack for writing for simple yet emotionally raw lyrics has not dimmed one bit.
The piano-led production is sparse and chilling, following in the steps of “Someone Like You,” a song that still haunts after nearly five years. Adele does not need gimmicks to make good music. Her impeccable voice and pure emotion say it all. “Hello” isn’t groundbreaking, but groundbreaking isn’t what Adele does. She provides the soundtrack to the heartbreak in our lives better than anyone else. The only thing sadder than the lyrics of “Hello” is the uncanny ease with which Adele makes everyone else look like flops.
Adele also dropped a gorgeous sepia-toned video to accompany the song. While some pop stars love big-scale productions, Adele dials it back. She uses a flip phone in the video. God bless. Adele has no time for this smartphone nonsense.
It’s safe to say people love “Hello” — it’s breaking just about every record in the book. In just three days, it has sold 750,000 downloads in the United States. She’s on track to top a million downloads in a single week, which would nearly double the existing seven-day sales record — Flo Rida’s “Right Round” with 636,000. “Hello” also smashed Taylor Swift’s 24-hour Vevo viewing record. It racked up more than 27 million in a single day, compared to “Bad Blood’s” 20.1 million. It’s now sitting pretty at more than 95 million views in just over four days. “Hello” broke Spotify’s single-day streaming record with 4.97 million plays on its debut day. And last, it topped the iTunes charts in more than 100 countries. It’s incredible how effortlessly Adele sweeps everyone else under the rug — she’s done minimal promo for the song so far.
Adele’s return to music was sorely needed at a time when mediocrity tops the charts. She doesn’t need gimmicks or a million celebrity friends to sell her product — all she needs is her voice. Adele is back for blood, and she’s taking no prisoners. We don’t deserve her or her emotionally gutting albums, but she blesses us all the same.