On Adele’s “Hello”

29 Oct

Adele’s “Hello” offers us a different narrative in the sense that the persona in the song is now the “jilter” instead of being the usual “jiltee.”

The first two stanzas lay out the current situation–from a distance and after several years, the persona longs to see the jiltee and hopes that they could synthesize everything that transpired between them in their now-dead relationship, all the while succumbing to nostalgia of their younger days together.

The rest of the song leaves us clues to the possible reasons for the demise of the relationship–the persona left (the place they spent their youth in, and consequently, the jiltee) because “nothing ever happened” in that town. It’s the usual peripheral small town problem (cue Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” perhaps in a way, even “Don’t Stop Believing”).

Now, the clincher obviously lies in the chorus (which comprises more than 60% of the song). The persona is trying to reach out to the jiltee so she could apologize for hurting him, but he never picks up and the message she gets from his silence is that he no longer seems affected by what happened.

I just listened to the song today because I got curious about why people are getting so affected by this song (well, Adele has been known be the soundtrack to broken hearts and emotional meltdowns, so there’s that). But I must say that after hearing it, I failed to find the emotional grip it has on many.

This story is all too familiar. The jilter leaves for some personal reason. The years that go by lend her the much-needed perspective and now that she has gained a foothold on life, she realizes just how terrible it was that she left him. She then longs for forgiveness and absolution that only he could give.

This exhibits just how selfish such apologies actually are. It isn’t really meant to comfort the jiltee or remedy the damage that has been done (if it is, it’s a case of “too little, too late”). It is simply meant to alleviate the guilt (or whatever kind of pain) the persona is plagued with.

The point of this post is not to crucify the jilter (we have all been there, done that), or to discredit the legitimacy of such feelings. I simply want to point out that making a choice is one thing–living with those choices is another. It often seems like making the choice is the painfully difficult part, but as the song shows, it’s living with it that can prove to be one’s eternal grief.


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