Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a weekly series showcasing an album, single, music video or performance of a bygone era and its personal and/or cultural significance.
Heartache doesn’t just burn your heart, it sends scorch marks across your skin and down your spine. The pain cripples you, forces you to your knees and drains your soul. You can’t hide from it, but you can conversely zap the sorrow of all its energy. Adele, known to lick those wounds so courageously on her albums, is the empress of wearing her heart on her sleeve ⎯⎯ often leaving you strangely raw and vulnerable. “Regrets and mistakes, they’re memories made,” she blubbers on “Someone Like You,” one of the best pop songs of the millennium. Drowned in nothing but trickling piano, the song is a wilting, stunning reminder of a former flame, as only ghosts of the past seem to haunt her dreams, rather prophetically.
“In 20 years time, if I’m telling my husband then and kids one day, ‘you know, one time I was a bit of a superstar, whatever, a pop star, had a big album,’ they’ll be like, ‘yeah, right, mum, fuck off,'” the soul-pop singer quipped during her stint at the Royal Albert Hall back in 2011. Musing on her blockbuster, diamond-selling 21 record, she extended sage wisdom about her transformation from forlorn lover to mighty warrior. “I knew it would resonate with people. I didn’t think it would go on to do what it’s done. Everyone knows what it’s like to lose someone that you love in some shape or form whether it be choice or not by choice,” she ascertained. “Everyone knows which is obviously why so many people like this song.”
“It seems so right that someone who changed my life so dramatically and the song that’s about him that is so brutally about him and then a record that’s about him would change my life as much as he has. Now, he’s forever gonna have changed my life, and I’m really proud of that. I’m not bitter about it anymore,” she added before launching into the incandescent vocal storm. On the final few repetitions of the chorus, the crowd opened themselves up to the haunting spirit of the ballad, mirroring Adele’s own transparent quest through the muck and mire.
“Someone Like You,” co-written with Dan Wilson, depicts a run-in years down the road and discovering her lover has settled down with a beautiful wife and kids. The slow build is tender but overflows with sorrow. “I hate to turn up out of the blue, uninvited,” she admits. “But I couldn’t stay away. I couldn’t fight it. I had hoped you’d see my face and be reminded that for me it isn’t over.” In an interview with Digital Spy, she confirmed those unstoppable, gutting feelings, saying, “I can imagine being about 40 and looking for him again, only to turn up and find that he’s settled with a beautiful wife and beautiful kids and he’s completely happy, and I’m still on my own. The song’s about that and I’m scared at the thought of that.”
She continued, “When I was writing it I was feeling pretty miserable and pretty lonely, which I guess kind of contradicts ‘Rolling In The Deep.’ Whereas that was about me saying, ‘I’m going to be fine without you’, this is me on my knees really.”
Adele, in many ways a modern-day Carole King, is a beacon, who dares to combat the Taylor Swifts and Katy Perrys of the world with sheer vocal prowess. 19, 21 and 25 have shifted popular music in boundless ways, refocusing detail to blustering balladeering and live singing. And we thank you for your service.