Lyrical Deal Breakers: Adele Edition

Note: This is one of those non-hockey posts I promised/threatened in the “About” section. It was bound to happen eventually – I mean seriously, it’s July. If not now, when? 

Adele’s songs are terrible.

I know you love them. I know they make you feel feelings, and every time they come on the radio you belt every chorus for all your once-broken heart is worth. And I know her voice is supposed to be very very speshul, so much so that she doesn’t get drummed out of pop music for not having the kind of figure that lends itself to strutting around the stage in hot pants and bedazzled bras.

I don’t hate Adele’s voice, although I’m not really sure what all the fuss is about. I’m glad ‘the industry’ allows her to be her slightly plump self, and I admit that many of her songs are catchy, or whatever the mournful, heartachy version of ‘catchy’ is. I want to like her; I really do. But good lord, those lyrics suck. They suuuuuuck. They su-diddly-uck.

I mean, really, they just suck. There’s no way around it.

It starts with the song titles. I’ll award a zillion internet points (redeemable for not a thing) to anyone who can give me a solid, legitimate answer as to what the hell “Rolling in the Deep” is supposed to mean. I’m sure you can all come up with half-baked explanations that come from the depths of your aforementioned once-broken hearts; I’m not interested in those. I want an actual answer, one that makes sense and was intended by the lyricist and doesn’t require semantic contortions and broad allowances. Why and in what fashion is she rolling? What, precisely, is “the deep”? As much as I’m looking forward to all your attempts at decoding this line, I’m fully prepared for them all to be complete BS. They’ll have to be, because this lyric makes not one lick of sense.

The same cannot be said for “Set Fire to the Rain,” unfortunately. That one makes perfect sense, in that both rain and setting fire are highly graspable concepts. Of course, it is physically impossible to combine those concepts, unless you’re talking about the kind of rain that turned Kimberly Drummond’s hair green. Is that Adele’s plan – to destroy our environment just to get back at her ex-boyfriend? What is WRONG with this woman?

Now we come to “Someone Like You,” which is mercifully uninfected by awful title-itis. In fact, it doesn’t suffer at all from the scourge of illogical lyrics – rather, it gives us the almost unbelievably trite “Sometimes it lasts in love and sometimes it hurts instead.” It’s as though Adele, having attempted to write “Jabberwocky” in the previously noted songs, decided to make this one “Go, Dog. Go!” Saturday Night Live told me that this song makes people cry, but sometimes I get the sinking feeling that I’m the only one who’s crying because of how badly that line mars what could have been a tolerable Adele song.

As for “Chasing Pavements,” that may or may not be an actual British phrase. If it is, then it’s in the clear. If it isn’t, then it sucks most of all.

Next time on Lyrical Deal Breakers: Lyrics that try to break the deal, but can’t quite overcome the quality of the music.

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13 thoughts on “Lyrical Deal Breakers: Adele Edition

  1. I think that the quality of her voice was that soulful squeak as she rises to her higher register- somewhat resonant of violins being stroked by a nicely resined bow. I wonder if she’ll still have that now her vocal cords have been fixed. That to me was worth listening to her for.

    As for her lyrics, I would live to argue with you and beat you over the head with a metaphorical thesaurus, but, you are quite right, and even worse, every time I hear her music now I hear your [internet] voice plucking at every line. And not in a soulful resined-bow-over-violin-strings kind of way. 😦

  2. Also, having a literal song about heart break would suck. No great poem can be read without interpretation or opinions. A poem carries different meanings for each person.

    “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”

    My summer day was hot and humid. The bugs are out, I got sunburnt, my mower quit, and I almost fainted from heat stroke. I’d rather not have that as the ultimate comparison to my awesomeness. You might have had a better day, maybe floating languidly down a river (not rolling deep in it, one hopes), maybe listening to the seductive lapping of water against the hull, birds singing softly in the background, frogs accompanying as your boat floats under a secretive cave made from a weeping willow… THAT would be a cool day to be compared to, but we have to use our imagination and guess the writer’s intention or, perhaps, apply our own experiences to the words to make it apply to us.

    • I knew somebody would accuse me of not understanding the concept of abstraction. I love creative wordplay and imagery. A lot. What I don’t love is incompatible words mashed together toward no actual purpose.

  3. I think the answer to “Rolling in the deep” is that 1) she was either too lazy to finish the sentence “Rolling in the deep despair” or 2) she couldn’t think of anything that rhymed with “despair”. I have some options for the next rhyming line — have it end with “untangling my hair”, “dancing with Fred Astaire” or how about “watching Con Air”?

  4. In my opinion – Adele is great, not because of her lyrics, but due to the conceptual idea of finally having an artist writing her own material, playing it herself – and not the victim of beauty-ideals, hit-makers nor Audiotune. The way I listen to music has never been about the lyrics – I find myself hard-pressed to actually hear what they are singing. I get distracted by a particularly good bass-line, that dual harmony the piano and the singer’s vocal makes when hitting the C# and Bb notes in unison… you get my drift. These things cannot be planned ahead of time (and which is why I loathe most electronic music – and also explains why I enjoy live music much more than mastered recordings). In Adele’s tracks, you can hear her breathing – it hasn’t been filtered out. Adele’s songs are aesthetically pleasing (at least to my ear) and the rhythm, flow and feel takes a front seat to the lyrics when I experience music. To sum up – yes, her lyrics suck – and yes, I don’t care. 🙂

  5. I know Adele has talked about the meanings of both “Rolling in the Deep” and “Chasing Pavements” — I think the interview was in Elle, maybe the May issue, I can’t remember — but why does it matter? The lyrics to her songs aren’t meant to be poetry read from a page, the songs are the entirety of the lyrics and the music and the vocal quality and the whole nine yards, or whatever the metric equivalent is.

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention that you can kinda sorta tolerate “Rumour Has It,” which is the Adele song my kids and I like best anyway. We think of you every time we hear it. 🙂

  6. I’m sorry but I have nothing to add. You already know of my kindred hatred of her lyrics (and I’m not even a fan of her voice) and starting my morning thinking of Adele is angering me greatly. I’m off to make my kids’ camp lunches and then set fire to some rain.

  7. I believe she gave an explanation on The Royal Albert Hall DVD for “rolling in the deep” as well. It has been a while but I vaguely recall it being British slang for having someone’s back, possibly gang slang. I chose to promptly ignore her explanation as I prefer my interpretation: emotional tumult felt comparable to the tumbling sensation one experiences when taken under by a wave…near coral. I’m a little less in love with “setting fire to the rain” although I appreciate the magnitude of what is being expressed due to the almost impossibility of the act. I say almost due to the fact that various bodies of water have “burned” due to pollutants within.

  8. Rumor Has It that it annoys me how easily you can ruin songs I previously enjoyed. Sigh. At some point I’m going to have my own opinions, right? #LittleSisterItis

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