Piano keys and a voice. That’s all Adele ever really needs to get to work. And who can blame her? With vocals as powerful but soft as hers, it does not take much else to wow a crowd. Several of her songs stray from this template, of course, with a lot of her tracks incorporating hard-hitting percussion (see “Rumour Has It”) and some others going for a more elegant feel with orchestral strings (see “Skyfall”). But to mark her big comeback after six years, Adele doesn’t pull out all the stops. Instead, she goes for a minimalistic, soulful ballad not too dissimilar from arguably her most familiar hit which launched her into stardom, “Someone Like You,” Yes, she’s here to remind us who she is and just how quickly she can make all of us cry at the sound of a note.
It’s not hard to know what to expect with Adele. Despite only appearing every few years to drop a project, the British blonde has been one of the most important names in conversations about music of the past decade. With each of her award-winning albums being named after her age during its inception, the songwriter’s discography has always had a distinct pattern. Her projects act as bodies of work she drops to give us a look into her fairly closed-off life, a peek she only gives us the privilege of seeing every so often. And that peek oftentimes ends up being some of the most intimate, soul-baring music one could ever hear. So, on October 5th, when Adele tweeted a teaser of about 13 seconds of piano, the world was ready to pay attention.
For a song about innocence, “Easy on Me” is very wise. On this nearly four-minute track, Adele sings about the dissolution of a relationship but not in a way that puts the other person completely at blame. Instead she lets her walls down and asks for a little understanding, acknowledging a shared fault in how things took a turn for the worse. “Go easy on me, baby. I was still a child,” she pleads, a line that carries even more weight when one knows this next album is dedicated to her son to explain his parents’ separation. Despite its unmistakably Adele feel, it does mark some changes for the artist. With the difficult subject of the album (“divorce, babe, divorce!”), Adele offers listeners a glimpse into a new chapter of her life. In this new saga, she is starting to reflect on the part she has played in her own shortcomings as opposed to her past projects where she mainly sings about the other person. As a single, the track is a solid choice to show this—an admission of self-awareness as it concerns her naivete.
Adele’s voice acts as an instrument of its own, along with the keys of the piano. At times the vocal melodies synchronize exactly with that of the piano, heightening the song’s infectiousness even more and ensuring that it will refuse to leave your head for the next week. Almost anyone can admit how fun it is to cosplay as a talented singer and see just what your voice can do. So, that moment when Adele uses impressive breath control to continuously alternate between the same two notes while we feel the pulse of the song’s rhythm? It is essentially a challenge for any listener to copy (one they will probably fail at)! It also acts as a build up to the heart-grabbing emotional crux of the song: the bridge. “I had good intentions,” she belts with high notes to match the “highest hopes” she once had. One thing about Adele, she knows how to make you feel the pain just as much as she does.
While the song has received positive reaction, some on Twitter wished for an even stronger sound for such a big comeback, a sound that was a bit less familiar. Although I thought this on the first listen, I later realized the simplicity does bring me a nostalgic comfort and takes me back to 2015, when Adele released the hit single “Hello” to promote 25 for her previous album cycle. But while I craved the familiarity of Adele’s voice, I hope this album takes another path and unleashes a whole new side of Adele. I suppose it all depends on the next single—will she play it safe with piano keys and a voice? Or, will she take us down the road less traveled?