When Adele released her first single, Easy On Me, from her forthcoming fourth album 30 last month, the world stopped. It was a cultural moment, not least because it was the beginning of Adele’s mighty return to the spotlight after a six-year hiatus.
And in true Adele style, her raw lyrics and balladeering melodies have once again tugged on our heartstrings. The album, which she says is about “divorce, babe”, is poised to make us laugh, cry and even re-evaluate our lives. It’s what the singer is known and loved for: an entire generation can pinpoint epic life moments to when Adele’s Hometown Glory dropped in 2008 (with friends at a houseparty in South London), or Someone Like You in 2011 (crying over an ex).
To celebrate Adele’s return, and the release of her new album, THE FACE team dives into her back catalogue to reminisce over the emotional impact she has made on us.
When We Were Young
Jessica Morgan, Deputy Editor
I love all of Adele’s songs, but, for me, When We Were Young takes the top spot. It never fails to give me goosebumps. It’s such a beautifully written song and Adele’s vocals and lyrics tap into my psyche more than my therapist. Whether I’m stressing about getting old and frantically taking photos of everything in case I lose my mind later in life, going through heartbreak or feeling nostalgic, this song soundtracks everything perfectly. When Adele sings: “You look like a movie /You sound like a song /My god this reminds me /Of when we were young / and we were sad of getting old /It made us restless”, it cements itself as a song made for people, like me, with Main Character Syndrome™.
You Do Something To Me
Craig McLean, Consultant Editor
A bit of a cheat, because my pick is Adele’s duet with Paul Weller on this devastating ballad from his third solo album, 1995’s Stanley Road. The pair recorded it at the BBC’s Maida Vale studios in North London in early December 2008. It was part of a piano-and-strings session filmed as an instalment of a series called the 6 Music Hub Combo, which sounds like a music venue’s sandwich special. I’m all over Weller’s original anyway, but on this collaboration, 20-year-old Adele’s smokey, soulful timbre – belted out with ease from atop a towering stool – works spine-tingling wonders alongside the then-50-year-old Modfather’s lived-in rasp. Hands up: this hub combo has extra resonance for me because I was in the room for that devastating performance, and I barely breathed for three minutes and 46 seconds. I was there to interview Adele on the occasion of her being nominated for four Grammys, 10 quick months after the release of 19. “I didn’t think success in America would come until my third album,” she said, gob well and truly smacked. Little did she know.
Rumour Has It
Olive Pometsey, Features Editor
There are three reasons people love Adele: her voice, naturally, her raw and relatable lyricism, and her unadulterated South London sass. Rumour Has It is a track that marries all of these elements together, for a foot-stomping takedown of the gossip that was swirling around while working on her second album, 21. Produced by Ryan Tedder (who’s also responsible for Beyoncé’s Halo and Leona Lewis’ Bleeding Love), the song is practically a sister to Rolling In The Deep, with a hypnotic beat and bluesy swing that instantly hooks you in. But while the lyrics are undeniably feisty on each track, the venom behind Adele’s pen feels more knowing and assertive on Rumour Has It. She’s not in pain, she’s pissed off – and she’s going to let you know about it in her soulful drawl. This song also wins bonus points for karaoke adaptability. Can’t reach her higher notes? Change tact and sing along to the backing vocals’ “Ooohs” instead. Range, babe. Range.
TJ Sidhu, Junior Editor
This is the first Adele song I heard back in 2008 when it played in Skins during the particularly dark penultimate episode of season two, as Chris slowly died and Cassie ran away to New York in a daze. For me, this song feels so of the time. I was 14 and desperately wanted to move to London and be really cool, so I think this song, which is about London and was written in 10 minutes when Adele was trying to convince her mum that she should stay there instead of going to uni, had some weird resonance… or something like that. Everyone’s a bit dramatic when they’re a teenager, aren’t they? And still now to be honest. These days, I mostly listen to Hometown Glory when I’m exhausted on the bus home from work and it’s pissing it down outside. I like to rest my head against the window and pretend I’m in a music video.
Jade Wickes, Staff Writer
I remember listening to this song well over a decade ago, and as a clueless 12-year-old, it struck a massive chord – even with next to no love life experience at that point, Chasing Pavements felt like a gut punch all the same. Finding out that it was inspired by Adele stomping into a bar and punching her ex-boyfriend in the face after he’d cheated on her, only added an extra layer to the mythology of this tune. Not to mention she sang and recorded it on her phone before arranging the chords later, once she got home. Proper old school Adele – and she was only 19!
HAIR Lucas Wilson at Home Agency MAKE-UP Yadim at Art Partner MANICURIST Kimmie Kyees at The Wallgroup TALENT’S STYLIST Jamie Mizrahi SET DESIGNER Nick Des Jardins at Streeters TAILOR Hasmik Kourinian PHOTOGRAPHER’S STUDIO ASSISTANT Luca Trevisani PHOTOGRAPHER’S ASSISTANTS Steve Yang and Jolson Diaz DIGITAL TECH Alex Woods STYLIST’S ASSISTANTS Marcus Cuffie, Lennon Gabriel, Niki Ravari and Jenny Wyman HAIR ASSISTANT Tania Becker MAKE-UP ASSISTANT Joseph Paul TALENT’S STYLIST’S ASSISTANT Analiese Kern SET DESIGN ASSISTANT Gautam Sahi PRODUCERS Helena Martel Seward and Chrissy Hampton PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS Griffith Snyder and Christian James