Last week, Adele made history with the release of her fourth studio album, “30”.
With this release she has surpassed the record for the fastest selling album of 2021 in the U.K. and U.S., the highest weekly sales, the most global streams on Spotify in a week, being the first female artist to hold four number 1 studio albums, and more.
Along with breaking records, the album has also left countless listeners and fans claiming they are “screaming, crying and throwing up” all at once.
This phenomenon is described by Urban Dictionary as “something you do when you’re very upset that you just want to smear your guts on the wall and bleed out as your tears slowly roll down your face,” and this is exactly how I felt last Friday as I listened to this album in utter despair.
As someone who has never been a die-hard Adele fan, I didn’t realize the magnitude of this album until I was three songs in and weeping while listening to “My Little Love”.
Given the album’s subject matter which focuses on her divorce, motherhood, heartbreak, and finding new love -- (all of which I cannot relate to) -- I had assumed that I wouldn’t be able to connect or relate to the album as deeply as I did.
But it seems that I was not alone in this feeling of connecting deeply to the album, as I saw social media exploding with people echoing their sentiments about the emotions Adele left them contending with.
As a result, I’ve been wondering–what is it about this album that has so many of us feeling this way? Perhaps it’s the universality of what she sings about, or perhaps it’s the way her voice pierces our souls, or perhaps it’s the lessons she leaves in traces of her music. Point is, I really don’t know what left me feeling this way, but I know I felt it so deeply.
What I’ve found in the past week of listening and re-listening to “30,” is that for me, this album opened up a flood of emotions and feelings I’ve been working on suppressing for most of my adulthood.
Speaking of being a people pleaser, prioritizing the needs of others, complicated parental relationships, avoiding feelings, dealing with chronic anxiety, and living an unhappy life – in the midst of sharing her own woes and the lessons she has learned through them, Adele has reminded me of the self-love and self-reflection journey that has been long overdue.
Being a “serial song skipper,” my usual MO when listening to albums has been flip-flopping through songs over the span of several days or even weeks. Therefore, I was surprised to find that Adele herself had required Spotify to disable the shuffle button default for listeners playing albums.
Upon listening to the album in this way, I’ve come to realize its importance – albums should be treated with the delicacy with which artists crafted them and intended them to be listened to.
“30” for Adele is a chronological recanting of her life experiences in her 30’s. Unlike the typical depiction of life through a linear lens, Adele mirrors the mess of life, as the album teeters between the highs and lows, all whilst unravelling the lessons she is learning throughout.
I want to talk here about some of these songs and what they mean to me.
Released a month ahead of the album, I was not prepared for Adele’s single “Easy on Me”. As the eldest daughter in my family, I can understand when Adele speaks of changing herself to prioritize the needs of others (presumably her son and ex-husband). She also talks about growing up too fast and therefore having “no time to choose what [she] chose to do.” This also spoke to my own heightened sense of responsibility as a role model for my siblings.
The genre switches up as Adele transitions into smooth R&B in “My Little Love” as an homage to her son Angelo. While I can’t relate to her exploration of motherhood, I do appreciate Adele’s raw honesty with her son. In a series of voice notes, conversing with her son, Adele explains to him that she “[doesn’t] really know what [she’s] doing,” and is quite candid about her emotional state dealing with her divorce.
I think so often, we as children put our parents on a pedestal because we don’t know otherwise. This has left me personally, with feelings of disappointment when my parents don’t fit my idolized reverence of them. I commend Adele for letting her son know that she isn’t a perfect human being, and that this in and of itself is okay.
What follows then is “Cry Your Heart Out,” which honestly feels like the anthem of the year. While it has a depressing background with Adele lamenting over “[getting] no relief,” it has a much more upbeat tune and with the lesson of well, crying your heart out. I was raised with the perception of crying as a behaviour of the “weak,” so this song is a good reminder of shedding that toxic belief.
“I Drink Wine” is where Adele speaks some serious truths to my soul. She talks about being unable to find balance in life, being someone she isn’t, and “obsessing about the things [she] can’t control” throughout her relationship.
A lot of what she speaks about here has manifested in my life through my anxiety with having obsessive thoughts, perfectionist tendencies, and making myself palatable for others – it's affirming to hear her sing about feelings I’ve felt for most of my life and just recently unearthed. \
The album shifts in tone as Adele drifts into her “All Night Parking Interlude” with Erroll Garner. This has to be my favourite song, despite being an interlude, in the entire album.
It’s clear that Adele is speaking about the excitement of falling in love again. While I can’t relate to these emotions, it's heartwarming to hear her speak of such happiness at last in the album and listening makes me excited to experience these feelings she sings of.
Then there was “To Be Loved”. Adele released a snippet of this song a few days prior to the album and reduced me to tears just within a few seconds of the song.
My heart hurts for her as a listener as she recalls the breakdown of her marriage while recognizing her own faults throughout the process. But the song stings as it’s made me realize my own fears around love and marriage being that both require sacrifice and deep commitment that I’ve never been willing to provide or endure.
Through listening to the album, I’ve come to appreciate Adele on a whole new level for bringing us as listeners into the joys and sorrows of her life at 30. Beyond the album too, in her interview with Oprah, her teary exchange with her former English teacher, and her amusing Instagram live, it’s evident that Adele doesn’t fit the typical mold of “pompous celebrity.”
She stays true to her roots and is very down to earth. This is reflected in her music as she speaks of her personal life and readily critiques her own faults as a human.
I didn’t anticipate that this past week would be filled with such emotional despair and a reckoning with myself. But Adele’s album truly spoke to me and has encouraged me to reflect as I navigate my 20’s. As such she has left me with a series of lessons to learn from:
1. Shuffle-free albums is the way to go and helps you understand the craft and story behind an album’s sequencing.
2. Listening to all 58 minutes and 14 seconds of the album, all alone on a Friday night was not the best choice for my mental state.
3. That I likely will not have my shit together at 30, or 40, or beyond for that matter. Life is not a linear progression – ebbs and flows are an inevitable truth.
4. Recognize that parents are humans not superheroes.
5. Release your emotions – suppressing it will only serve to do further damage.
6. Love is complicated but there’s no need to be afraid of it. We’ll all experience it someday.
7. And perhaps the biggest and hardest lesson of them all - stay true to yourself and make sure to prioritize your own needs and happiness.
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