Let’s begin with a few disclaimers.
First, I have been told that – on occasion – I over-analyze things.
Second, we here in Washington have been digging out from an epic blizzard, which among other things has afforded me a lot of time with my children, most of which is set to the constant soundtrack of pop music playing through Spotify.
Third, I latch onto song lyrics. After about two listens, wittingly or unwittingly I have committed every lyric to memory. My husband marvels at this, but it’s as much curse as blessing. It’s also a pretty inefficient use of finite cognitive resources.
With that prologue as context, the other day my 8 year old daughter asked me what my favorite line is from Adele’s “Hello.” It’s amazing how quickly this song became so ubiquitous a cultural reference. Even Devan has paid grudging respect to the stratospheric commercial success of Adele’s new album, which instantly displaced her beloved T-Swift’s “1989” in sales (but never in our hearts).
My answer was immediate:
“None of them. I really don’t like that song.”
She was silent for a moment, then pressed me to justify this alien-like antipathy.
“Do you really want to know?” I asked.
At this point you could hear my husband sigh loudly from the other room. “Oh, boy. Here we go…”
Devan, I will tell you why.
“Hello” is like an instructional manual for how to inflict maximum emotional harm at the end of a relationship. It’s Breaking Up For Dummies, a lyrical tour through misdirected self-pity, fruitless and ultimately harassing attempts at continued contact, and guilt transmogrified into victimhood.
Let’s break this down here.
Hello, it’s me. I’ve been wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet.
Years. Not weeks, not months, years. Considering that Adele is all of 25, for all we know this heartrending ballad echoing across every corner of the globe is about the failed love of two kids who met in AP History, or while making Blizzards at their summer job at the DQ. Regardless, Devan, Adele has been hanging on to this overwrought romantic implosion for way too long.
And why does she want to meet?
To go over everything.
At this point in the song, my focus shifts to the mythical, apparently scorned and stung ex-lover, who is trying the best he can to get on with his life. Why the hell would he want to go over everything? He clearly has no interest in going over everything, or anything, with Adele. Which is why he has dodged her relentless calls.
Hello from the other side. I must have called a thousand times. To tell you I’m sorry for breaking your heart, but it don’t matter, it clearly doesn’t tear you apart anymore.
Imagine this scenario, Devan. Your best friend made the choice to break up with her boyfriend some years ago. And while these things are always more complicated than this, let’s just keep it simple and say that it was your friend who initiated the split. She was done.
Done-zo. Gave him the heave-ho.
Over coffee one day, this friend tells you she’s been calling that very ex, whose face you can barely summon to mind given the long passage of time.
You: “Um, so, how many times have you called him?”
Friend: “About a thousand.”
Trust your mother on this one, Devan, what your friend has just admitted to is straight up stalking, likely to meet the elements of a felony in most states. And somewhere over on the “other side,” his friends are listening to a subset of those thousand messages and – at best – reminding him of how unhealthy the relationship was. More likely, they are calling Adele a nut job, urging him to change his number, and assuring him for the umpteenth time that he dodged a serious bullet. They’re reminding him how cool his current girlfriend is. She beats them all at fooz-ball and is utterly tone deaf.
There is no cause to call someone a thousand times, about anything. This is why insurance companies get away with ripping off their customers. No remotely sane person can endure that many calls, either initiated or received.
And by the way, don’t assume your friend Adele wouldn’t turn that penchant for speed-dial on you one day, just because she felt the need to rehash a decade-old grievance.
[While we’re on the subject, where were Adele’s friends when she was peppering her old flame like this? I for one don’t let them off the hook. Sometimes you have to step in and save your friend from herself. When Jennifer Aniston fell in with John Mayer, some part of me blamed Courteney Cox.]
I could go on, and dissect her thinly veiled self-congratulation and swipes at his purported lack of ambition (Did you ever make it out of that town where nothing ever happens?)
But suffice it to say that as your mother, I would like to shoo you away from “Hello,” perhaps even more than from songs with far cruder or explicit words. I wouldn’t say I’m ready to have our family dance out the rest of this storm to “Big Pimpin’,” but no daughter of mine is going to let “Hello” be more than car Muzak
Relationships end. New ones form. Leaving someone you cared about is never easy. The moment that it “clearly doesn’t tear you apart anymore” is actually a glorious watershed, and the last moment in the world that you need some person who realized they screwed it up to start lighting up your phone.
I like Adele, you like Adele. But somewhere, there’s a guy contemplating a restraining order, and many years ago he dated an extraordinarily gifted singer who needs both a new lyricist, and a better therapist.
As for us, let’s go sledding.