Adele’s new single, “Easy on Me,” turns out to be ballsy in at least a couple of different ways. First and foremost: When she issued that 40-second preview earlier this week, and you were wondering what it would sound like when it leaped from a solo piano arrangement to something grander in the chorus after the teaser verse? Now we know: It’s Adele and just a piano from beginning to end… and the faintest hint of rhythm if you squint into the ether, but essentially, solo keyboard accompanying not-so-sotto voce. Take that, Rhythmic Top 40 formats! (And because it’s Adele, they probably will.)
Secondly, it’s Adele taking responsibility — or at least sharing it. This is not the mostly aggrieved Adele of “21”… it’s an Adele who knows she may have complicit in the downfall of a relationship. Greg Kurstin again collaborated on the song, which has a little bit of the flavor of “Hello,” as Adele reconnects with someone she’s apparently been apart from for a while — but in a mode of explaining this time, not beseeching. “I was still a child,” she sings in the chorus. “I had no chance to choose what I chose to do… so go easy on me.”The singer has indicated in her interviews for the upcoming “30” album that her divorce did not come about as a result of feeling deeply done wrong as much as a sense of needing to move on from something that just wasn’t working, so anyone looking for autobiography in the song (and historically, there’s been plenty) may read this as a plea to have her own motives understood, not to assign blame. And that’s a more complex set of feelings to sort out in a song than some of her more accusatory early songs… but, we’d suspect, maybe just as heartrending once the tune has more time to sink in.
Adele does offer an apologia, if not an actual apology: “There ain’t no room for our things to change / When we are both so deeply stuck in our ways / / You can’t deny how hard I’ve tried.” A child is seemingly invoked: “I changed who I was to put you both first / But now I give up.”
But she doesn’t mean to leave on a downer note. At the end, Adele breaks the mood as she breaks the fourth wall, with a hearty laugh as the scene expands to show she’s being subjected to a wind machine, not real gale-force seaside winds. The opening scene before the song kicks in is nearly as light, as the singer grapples with a bad phone connection, talking to a “darling” who could be that child, or a new love interest, having just cleared out a house and packed it up in a pickup truck. (Maybe that phone call should have been to United Van Lines, but Adele don’t need no stinkin’ movers.)
The video was shot last month in Quebec and has her collaborating with director Xavier Dolan. If the opening scene of her having a bad cellular connection suggests a loose tie-in with the dramatic telephone cold-calling of “Hello,” that may not be coincidence — the new video begins in the same house featured in that earlier video.
Anticipation for the single was high enough that, just on YouTube, 100,000 people were logged onto her page, awaiting the opening notes of the video, moments before the song premiered. Within the first 45 minutes, YouTube views topped 650,000.
While most singles come out at midnight east coast time and 9 p.m. PT, Adele proved herself a Londoner first and foremost by releasing the new single at midnight U.K. time, ensuring that Americans had plenty of time to deal with any unsorted emotions the song might have dredged up before bedtime. For U.K. fans who didn’t have so much time to dry their eyes: Bittersweet dreams.