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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Column: Someone like us

Somebody broke up with me once, so I completely identify with Adele and her music. Even one year later, listening to the powerhouse crescendos and vocal fire of “Rolling in the Deep” still takes me back to the memories of that one person who said he didn’t find me attractive. It’s nice to know that, in terms of heartbreak, someone else out there is on the same level as I am.

Actually, I’ve always carried a torch for strong female vocalists who need no man. Even for someone who’s never been spurned by a lover there’s something so vicariously empowering about seeing a chanteuse turn her romantic crises into multiplatinum-selling discs. After all, nothing speaks louder than a lyrical middle finger and a stack of record profits higher than Big Ben. Well, except for maybe the legions of fans like me.

It’s hard to pinpoint any single trait that draws us to Adele so magnetically. For me, it was initially her ability to pull off lumpy oatmeal-hued sweaters as well as her prominent chin, with the music itself coming in a close third place. In any case, whether it’s some form of powerful cockney voodoo or simply the maternal charm of her ponytails keeping the rest of the world’s attention, it’s working: 21 has held the top position on the Billboard charts for 23 weeks and Adele’s fan base continues to swell.

If I had to venture a guess on behalf of the fans, however, I would say that the common reason for our devotion is that we didn’t even realize we had all suffered our own love life traumas until Adele came along. Before songs like “Someone Like You” there was still the possibility of recalling our past breakups as amicable and mutual, but that’s no longer an option.

Thanks to the intense emotional content of her record, as well as my desire to associate with it, I now regularly find myself looking back misty-eyed at three-week-long relationships and one-night stands, thinking “we could have had it all…” I assume — because Adele seems to really resonate with a vast audience and also because I like to think everyone emulates me to a certain extent — that this style of thinking is a popular one.

It’s certainly an easy mindset to adopt; with ballads like Adele’s, all it takes is one listen before you start to remember all of your previous relationships as tumultuous, heart-rending affairs. Perhaps it’s the lyrical content or the gusto of her delivery, but there’s something about her style that just makes the listener feel understood.

Never mind the fact that I’ve never watched an old flame move on and get happily married, when I’m listening to “Someone Like You,” the piano alone is so poignant I could swear that I’m the one who has just endured a soul-crushing breakup. I still can’t tell you what exactly it means to “Set Fire to the Rain,” but when that song comes on the radio I create my own definition of the phrase and belt it out as though I coined it. Therein lies the beauty of lyrics that are just vague enough that I can find a way to make them about me.

Personally, my favorite thing about Adele’s sophomore album is that she never makes it too explicit she’s telling a story about herself and her own life. Since the lyrics center around the highly-relatable topic of breaking up/romantic issues without ever being too case-specific, listeners are left with plenty of room to interpret the songs’ material in a way that best matches their own lives.

In my eyes, Adele is like the fairy godmother of scorned lovers everywhere, guiding us toward the realization that we’re perpetual victims but simultaneously teaching us to own it. So what if sometimes “owning it” entails taking memories of perfectly harmonious breakups and/or insignificant failed relationships and re-imagining them for dramatic effect? This columnist has certainly never lost any winks over a little exaggeration.

All things considered, what matters most is the fact that associating with Adele’s music in this way provides us with an avenue to turn the listening experience into one of self-discovery. It may be the case that all we’re really discovering is how effectively we can draw parallels between our brief flings and the lengthy romance documented in 21, but hey, since when was music about the artist’s story anyway?

How bad was your breakup on a scale of 1 to Adele? Let DYLAN GALLAGHER know at dylaaaaan@gmail.com.

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