Adele's 30: An Analysis
Updated: Jan 30
On Friday, November 19th English singer-songwriter extraordinaire, Adele, released her highly anticipated fourth studio album by the name of 30. It's Adele’s first album since her 2015 release 25, 6 years ago. Rumors swirled when mysterious signals marked with a simple “30” began showing up on buildings around the world. Those rumors were proved true when Adele shared the teaser of her first single, “Easy on Me.”
Adele has not only built a particularly enjoyable sonic experience, but she told a story with this project garnished by a vulnerability that music fans of today don’t hear too often. From the opener “Strangers by Nature” all the way down to the careless pessimism of “Love Is A Game”, 30 has easily exceeded all of my expectations. Adele said in an interview with Zane Lowe, that this album is about her journey through divorce. Although I’ve never been through a divorce, I can still assume that there is a very long and treacherous journey to a new existence that doesn’t include the institution of marriage. What parts make up this journey? How and in what ways did 30 display these steps? What are Jermaine’s top 3 songs? (Hint: the titles are in bold.)
To write this blog post clearly, I’m going to rely on some knowledge from one of my favorite authors, Brené Brown. In her book Rising Strong, she writes about three steps to bounce back from an experience that has left you feeling like a failure. Divorce, for example, can leave one feeling like a failure as a partner, and as a parent, among many other things. Brené explains this process in 3 phases: the Reckoning, the Rumble, and the Revolution. Adele represents the reckoning in tracks 1-4, the rumble in tracks 5-8, and the revolution in tracks 9-12. Follow me through the breakdown!
Coming to terms with who you’ve become is tough. The process of finding yourself is even tougher when you realize that the new you is no longer married, but the current you is. “Strangers by Nature”, “Easy On Me”, “My Little Love”, and “Cry Your Heart Out” are where Adele begins this journey to her new identity. Niklas Goeke summarizes the reckoning as, "the experience of paying attention to your emotions and beginning to question them".
These four songs focus are big on the reckoning. “Cry Your Heart Out,” asks in the lyrics, “When will I begin to feel like me again?” At that moment Adele is realizing how issues with anxiety and depression are impacting her day-to-day life. Those low moments are the feelings that deserve our attention.
To start this process of growth we must learn how to put words to these robust experiences and emotions, much like Adele does in the final voice memo of “My Little Love.” Aren’t we all “a bit frightened that we might feel like this a lot?” But we must sit in and with our emotions to work through them, and not just work on them.
Goeke describes the rumble as “what happens when you write down the story you tell yourself, real or not.” Adele expresses this precise sentiment in “I Drink Wine” where she laments how the world wants to bring us down by “By putting ideals in our heads to corrupt our hearts somehow.” Brene Brown doesn’t call this the rumble for fun. When you’re fighting in “the arena” of public opinion, you must be ready to stand for yourself and your actions. You can’t begin to combat what we’ve been conditioned to believe as a society if you’re not grounded in your truth.
In this part of the album, Adele is rumbling with the impulses of her inner-self. In “Oh My God” for example she says, “I know that it’s wrong, but I want to have fun.” She also rumbles with hook-up culture and the willingness to say anything to get with someone in “Can I Get It.” Although this step is very important to the Rising Strong process, we have to be careful not to stay here too long. When the rumble is over, we have to take the lessons we learned and move on to the revolution.
After you question your emotions and subsequently find the answers to those questions, the next step is to apply those new understandings. Goeke says that you participate in the revolution when “you channel your insights from the rumbling into positive changes.”
The last four songs on 30 are pure revolution. It starts with “Woman Like Me,” a huge shift from the infatuation and lustful emotions of “All Night Parking.” The rebound relationship is commonplace. You find someone that is comforting for a while, they remind you of home and shower you with compliments, so everything is great! But then, the flaws show themselves, the experience becomes monotonous, and you realize they don’t deserve a woman like you.
In “My Little Love,” Adele shares that she is afraid of loneliness, then in “Hold On”, she moves to embrace loneliness as a chance to rest and reset. In the lyrics, she says “Sometimes loneliness is the only rest we get.” In a way, “Hold On” is kind of like My Little Love: The Sequel. Coming to terms and making peace with decisions you’ve made is necessary for the revolution. You can’t change the past, but you sure can study it and make yourself aware of how your actions have impacted others. Adele articulates this experience in the second verse of “To Be Loved”, “Looking back, I don't regret a thing Yeah, I took some bad turns that I am owning.”
The journey to Adele’s strong rise ends in the careless pessimism of “Love is a Game.” We hear Adele realize that love is mean and it is cruel. But who cares? The negatives are outweighed by the fun, joy, and some of the best times of our lives. Often as we may experience failure in love, the best thing to do is to get up and try again.
The age-old saying goes, “it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.” We can say repeatedly that we won’t let love fool us like the last time, but what a boring life that would be, am-I-right?
In closing, we all experience pain, heartbreak, and lose things we thought would be ours forever. It’s okay to let those emotions take up space, but the space has to become active along the way; that is the key to learning from what we perceive to be our failures. The key to unlocking the courage to take on another day, to try something new, and to believe in yourself again. You can use the links below to stream 30 on your favorite streaming platform and find more information about Brene Brown’s book Rising Strong!
Cover from: thespin.com, Photo by: Simon Emment
Lyrics from Genuis.com, Images by Jermaine Thomas