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Welcome!

My name's Clifford Stumme, and I explain the deeper meanings of popular songs. Let's have a conversation about what you think about the songs and go deeper together. Feel free to email me at clifford@popsongprofessor.com with questions or ideas!

What does "Hello" by Adele mean?

What does "Hello" by Adele mean?

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SONG MEANING: "Hello" by Adele is a post-breakup song about going back over the past and seeking closure. Want to find out more? Keep reading! 

Four years after her last album, Adele is finally back! She's releasing singles from her upcoming album 25, the follow up to 21 which she released last. About the distance and the changes in material between albums, she (according to Wikipedia) said, "My last record was a break-up record, and if I had to label this one, I would call it a make-up record. Making up for lost time. Making up for everything I ever did and never did. 25 is about getting to know who I've become without realising. And I'm sorry it took so long but, you know, life happened."

And "make-up" instead of "break-up" is a great way to describe what's happening in "Hello." Instead of taking the stereotypical break-up song route and singing about how terrible the other person was, Adele sings about finding closure and talking over what happened so many years ago. And with that level of depth and maturity in a song, I have decided that I cannot wait for the release of the rest of the tracks on 25 on November 20th. I hope you're excited too!

And just so ya' know: I added (or will very soon add) "Hello" to my Spotify playlist “Clifford Stumme’s Pop Prerogative"! That's where I keep my current favorites and current analysis subjects. I hope you enjoy!

Of course, I have to mention how deep and wonderful Adele's voice is. You'll never fully understand this song until you've listened to her singing it. If you haven't listened yet, please do so and then continue reading. Her own voice may be the only explanation this song needs.

Adele - Hello

Adele - Hello

"Hello" Lyrics Meaning

In the First Verse, she begins with "Hello, it's me." She's introducing herself to someone from her past. In the music video, we see her taking dusty sheets off old furniture as though she's going back into the past to finish things not yet done. 

She continues, “I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet / To go over everything.” She wants to find closure and to discuss with an ex-lover how things went wrong and where they are now. While “[t]hey say that time’s supposed to heal ya,” Adele hasn’t “done much healing,” and she’d like to force the healing process along–to get things in the open.

She continues to beg for the other person to respond to her. She sings, “Hello, can you hear me?” and explains that she’s still “dreaming about who we used to be.” She’s not necessarily day-dreaming about their relationship, but is at the very least thinking back to past times–time that she misses because they “were younger and free.”

Of course, now she’s “in California” singing and the man is elsewhere–they’re separated by “a million miles.” But that’s not the only difference. After the “world fell at our feet,” she realizes that there’s “such a difference between us.”

In the Chorus, she sings, “Hello from the other side / I must’ve called a thousand times.” She’s trying to tell him she’s “sorry for everything [she’s] done.” But he must be avoiding her (though in the music video he seems to feel some of the same things she’s feeling) because when she calls, he “never seem[s] to be home.”

She continues the chorus by singing that even though he won’t pick up, “At least I can say that I’ve tried / To tell you I’m sorry for breaking your heart.” While she won’t be able to get full disclosure, she at least hopes she’ll be satisfied that she tried and that her effort will be some closure for herself. Of course, the man doesn’t seem to need closure like she does: “But it doesn’t matter. It clearly doesn’t tear you apart / Anymore.” She interprets his silence as a lack of need for the peace she needs.

In Verse 2, she seems to be leaving a message for him when she sings, “Hello, how are you? / It’s so typical of me to talk about myself. I’m sorry / I hope that you’re well / Did you ever make it out of that town where nothing ever happened?” Because he wont’ pick up, she continues the conversation on her own, continuing to wonder what he would say.

But her mission is still urgent. She believes that if they don’t talk soon, they’ll never be able to resolve what happened and will always carry that burden: “It’s no secret that the both of us / Are running out of time.”

Easter Egg: Why the flip phone?

If you’ve watched the video, you probably noticed that Adele uses a flip phone at about 0:30. Why? Why not use something more modern? Author and Internet writer John Walker asked the same question and instead of wasting time pondering, turned the director himself.

Here’s what Director Xavier Dolan had to say: “The use of flip-flop phones is coherent with the rest of my work,” Dolan told me in an email sent by his agent. “I can’t get my head around filming iPhones—they’re too real, too identifiable with our everyday lives. Same for cars. I feel bad filming Toyotas and Kias. As soon as you film these elements, it’s like you’re shooting whatever commercial. I find them to be non-narrative elements.”

I hope you enjoyed “Hello” by Adele and my explanation! I just started an insider e-mail list where I ask for your help to explain pop songs and let you know about new posts and podcasts. When you sign up, you’ll get a copy of my “Top 10 Tips to Help You Decipher Pop Music”!

Clifford Stumme has his master’s in English literature and is a blogger and a college instructor/desk-watcher at Liberty University. He likes juggling and reading/writing, and he is married to the wonderful and beautiful Wife April. He thinks pop music is awesome. Seriously awesome.

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