With a new era of music coming from the high priestess of memory, music, and melancholy, she sure isn’t going easy on us, and for good measure, too. Bring on the cry fest, Adele.
Full disclosure: It is rare for me to able to get through the song Make You Feel My Love as essayed by Adele without ending up a sobbing, blubbering mess. (There’s nothing to it really, just the dregs of a second love that pretty much felt like the unraveling of an unbridled first love.) Yes, this isn’t technically an original of hers (a Bob Dylan original, by the way), but just like the rest of her riveting repertoire in the debut album, 19, she eerily gets you. With the heavy-handed lacing of feeling, the indulgence of embellishment in the composition, and the dripping of honey in her brassy pipes, Adele will make you cry. No matter how much you steel yourself, there will be a welling of waterworks at some point, a sniffle here and there, or for those who don’t have an ounce of care left, a full breakdown when her gut-wrenching and heartrending tracks comes on.
Whether one will like to admit it or not, tears are not only shed to an Adele song, but when a good cry is the prescription, the first thing we reach for is whatever device has music on and immediately play anything from Hometown Glory, Chasing Pavements, and Melt My Heart To Stone—and this is just the first album. In the name of catharsis, other heavy-hitters are added to the rotation: Turning Tables, Don’t You Remember, I’ll Be Waiting, One And Only, and Someone Like You from the balance of aggression and appoggiatura (the grace note responsible for the emotional tension and subsequent relief in music) in her confident follow-up, 21.
And it’s not always wrought with words either, because with the bravado of the British singer, all it takes is one echoing hello and we immediately come undone. From the soaring sentiments and stirring sincerity of Love In The Dark, When We Were Young, and All I Ask in 25, and really with every single song that comes from heart, Adele will make us cry.
The ability of Adele and her music to bring us to tears is unmatched in the context of music’s modern history. The dalliance of strength and the unapologetically feeling is so apparent that even with just the first warbling of syllables (hear: Hello) or the overview of orchestration (hear: Skyfall), our senses are shaken, and well stirred.
Gentle and graceful, as it is robust and resolute, Adele making people cry is not only marked in the zeitgeist of pop culture with memes and SNL sketches, but it also is a phenomenon studied by science. Simply put, it is nothing short of a phenomenon, a tear-stricken, snot-filled one at that.
The charm lies in the clear contrast between Adele as a person and Adele the singer, but wherever she figures for the day, even she isn’t immune to her music. “In order for me to feel confident with one of my songs it has to really move me,” she relates in a sit down with the New York Times in 2015. “That’s how I know that I’ve written a good song for myself—it’s when I start crying. It’s when I just break out in [expletive] tears in the vocal booth or in the studio, and I’ll need a moment to myself.” Adele letting out a good cry to her own music? Oh, it has happened.
With the passion pulsing through every story and song, matched with the precision of production, it isn’t just a meandering of melancholy and stringing of hurt for the mere sake of. Truth be told, leafing through her discography doesn’t feel like a pilfering of pain for profit. Even with the sharpest of digs through the cavity of the heart, it doesn’t feel forced or vengeful. Swinging from somber, savage, and settled, and then all in reverse, it all just make sense.
And Cry We Will
Delicate as it is devastating, there is a decisive purpose to each chapter released in each music cycle, no matter how far and in between they are. For many people, and perhaps even for the singer and songwriter itself, the progression of music functions among many things as a therapy session, a regurgitation of pent up frustration, and a responsible processing of emotions.
However, it is the inherent honesty and refreshing lack of pretense that moors people when in the tempest of feelings, buoys them when all seems a little too much, and guides them in the inevitable instance they feel lost. When all else fails and all you can do is cry, which is totally human, Adele is one play away. And with new music on the way in the form of 30, which includes excruciatingly evocation Easy On Me, the achingly indulgent Love Is A Game, and the soul-splitting To Be Loved, there is a lot of weeping, wailing, and walling (look it up) in our future.
If it doesn’t make sense why she is the success that she is today, then look no further. It may be as knee-jerk as a cry session or a profound understanding of the complexities of love and life, it must be said: Adele heals. Listening to her is a spiritual experience, bar none. Stripped to the bare essentials, just her, that gutting voice, and the timeless music, all our worries seems to be so concentrated at one point, but by the end of the song, the album, or for the lucky ones, the concert, what was once unbearable is suddenly made light, necessary even.
So, if Adele wants us to cry, then by all means, we bloody will, over and over again.