Wednesday, February 15, 2012


--Grammy-winner Adele

Well, what am I supposed to do?
You won't answer my calls,

you change your number.

I mean, I'm not gonna be ignored, Dan

--Fatal Attraction

Well, we have recently had a taste of heaven and hell and truth or consequences, so we will move on to the next topic, Adele.

The British chanteuse swept six Grammy's, including record, song and album of the year for "21". She won Best Pop Performance for "Someone Like You", a tune that
Saturday Night Live parodied by having the crew break out in sobs upon hearing a few bars. So what's unusual about Adele?

The Wall Street Journal's "Anatomy of a Tearjerker" gives a neuro-biological take on why the appoggiatura of the tune affects us so: they point out its adherence to a well-trod musical path. Really, her success may be simpler than that.

Adele is a brash, big-boned girl who resonates well with America's self-image, 2012. She lets it all hang out in her signature tune, "Someone Like You", about a love affair gone sour. The line is from Tim Hardin's "Reason to Believe", but it is far more aggressive.

In Hardin's tune, the scorned lover is seeking some tidbit in order to hang on, in the face of his lover's lies. Tracy Chapman's "Give Me One Reason (to Stay)" echoes a similar thought, while introducing a bit of self-assertion (
"But I'm too old to go chasing you around / Wasting my precious energy.")

Adele's tune borders on stalking, and certainly is self-sorrowful:

I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited
But I couldn't stay away, I couldn't fight it.
I hoped you'd see my face and be reminded
That for me it isn't over

It also trims the rump-end off many predecessors. When she sings, "I wish nothing but the best for you, too / Don't forget me I beg", she's conflating two opposing ideas: Wishing well for another, yet insisting he not move on (as he already has). It is a cri de coeur of a woman in denial, pathetic in its transparent lie, yet we eat it up.

It is Dolly Parton meets Tea and Sympathy (1956), except it falls short on the exalted sentiments of both predecessors. Parton writes with consistency and integrity:

Oh, I do wish you joy and I wish you happiness
But above all of this, I wish you love.
I love you, I will always love you.

In Tea and Sympathy, the female asks only, "Years from now when you talk about this - and you will - be kind." Both are mature responses to a love that cannot be. When Sinead O'Connor sang "Nothing Compares 2 U" (written by Prince), she is contrite: "Nothing can stop these lonely tears from falling / tell me baby where did I go wrong?"

There is no contrition in Adele's song; she is all over the page, mostly angry and petulant and entitled. A prima-donna 21, I guess, but why would such a song resonate with adults, and not stay in the tween genre of pop? The same question applies to tween books like the Twilight series: From whence this juvenile reversion?

Unrequited love is Adele's metier. Maybe we feel collectively someone's done us wrong; we didn't get enough, and we want them to know it.
Not only is it my party and I can cry if I want to, you're not gonna get out so easily, either. No more, "The Best is Yet to Come"-type tunes. Adele reflects a nation wallowing in loss and abandonment.

We figure Adele is a gift from the United Kingdom to follow up on the brave success of Susan Boyle. Adelle is a
tarted-up 2010 version of Ms. Boyle.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tarted up Boyle V.2 or no, girl's got some pipes.


Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 12:17:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Labrys said...

I dislike the song "Someone Like You" intensely. But I do like Adele's voice, she simply has better songs.

But then, in romantic matters? I NEVER looked for 'someone like' the last one. If it didn't work the first time, wtf would I do it again?

Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 1:41:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Agreed on your learning curve, labrys.

Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 6:33:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

Not familiar with the singer, but your description is well within the sort of thing that seems to have overtaken a pretty large portion of the public re: their perception of what a "vocalist" is supposed to sound like.

Friday, February 17, 2012 at 2:35:00 PM GMT-5  

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