On Adele’s first Instagram Live, in service of her new album 30, one fan who tuned in typed the question: “What’s this album about?” And Adele, in her Peggy Mitchell via @loveofhuns way, responded: “Divorce, babe.”
30, Adele’s fourth record and the latest instalment in her age-based album saga – which has the unfortunate effect of underlining to her peers that instead of writing multi-platinum albums that speak to millions, we are very much still regularly eating dinner in bed – is out today. It is somewhat of a sonic departure for a singer who has become known for her standards-y style, with tracks ranging in genre from soft rock to The Full Judy Garland (see: the amazing “Strangers by Nature”).
What all the songs have in common, however, is divorce. Binge drinking, randomly crying, tracksuit bottom-wearing divorce.
Now I have personally never been divorced, but have always thought it quite a glamorous pursuit mostly centred on wearing leopard print and using your ex-husband’s money to get blow dries twice a week. On 30, Adele paints a more realistic picture – one of emotional insecurity, anxiety, and having to explain shit to your kid, across a musical palette with the experimental energy of your cool aunt or older cousin who, having finally left her crap second husband, has gone shopping for “a pop of colour” for her wardrobe. Here are 30’s tracks, therefore, ranked by just how divorced they sound.
12) ‘Can I Get It’
This is the album’s sole Max Martin co-write, and is therefore destined to take over the radio and the nation’s collective consciousness in about a month’s time (you will hear that whistle drop whenever you shut your eyes). It’s a fun little slice of mid-record action which seems more about jumping into a sexy fun new relationship than mulling over an old one, so comes bottom of the pile under this particular metric.
11) ‘All Night Parking’ (with Erroll Garner)
This is more a straight-up love song, and while love is ultimately what leads to one becoming divorced, this track is less about the divorce bit and more about the bit where you are so into someone you have to stop yourself from looking at their Instagram Story two minutes after they posted it.
10) ‘Woman Like Me’
This song strikes me as being more about a rebound fuckboy than a full-on ex-husband. While it does have a bit of the Post-Divorce Grown Woman Knowing Her Worth about it, the smoky vocals and guitar don’t strike me as work only a divorced Adele could make, and therefore it ranks low-ish.
9) ‘Oh My God’
This is one of my favourite songs on 30 because I love to hear Adele doing uptempo in a way that suits her voice AND is about making poor decisions in the name of having a laugh. I suppose this is quite a divorced thing to do, but is not exclusive to divorced people (for example, I am not divorced but I do regularly drink coffee after 12PM – what am I like?!).
8) ‘Strangers by Nature’
As I mentioned, this one is a tribute to Queen of Divorce Judy Garland – herself divorced four times; the Henry VIII of musical theatre – which in itself gets it a mid-table ranking.
7) ‘Cry Your Heart Out’
By contrast to ‘Oh My God,’ this is one of the sonic experimentations that lands less well for me – it transports you back to that mid-to-late 2000s era where everyone either wore pencil skirts or disco pants. Its message of “have a cry then a shower, hun”, however, undeniably meets the “divorced” criteria.
6) ‘Easy on Me’
Destined to be the karaoke song of choice of women named Sandra across the British Isles for the next year. Which is to say: Quite Divorced.
5) ‘My Little Love’
This song has some extremely touching clips of Adele talking to her child about her feelings on divorce, which is very beautiful and sad and honest. In the worst timeline (which, let’s face it, we definitely occupy!), it also will probably trigger some sort of unnecessary and tiresome Daily Mail op-ed called “HOW MUCH SHOULD WE BE TELLING OUR KIDS?”, which therefore makes it Divorced: 3D.
4) ‘I Drink Wine’
Inevitable, really, that a song called “I Drink Wine” would land in the top flight of a “divorced energy” list, but it’s not just the title that gets this one here. This mid-tempo piano track has a “getting up to sing in a bar on a night out that the girlies have brought you on to stop you crying into a Pot Noodle for the fourth night in a row” vibe, and when I hear her singing it I imagine her wearing a plaid shirt and sploshing a glass of Pinot about like Connie Britton in Friday Night Lights. Which is a good aesthetic, really.
3) ‘Love Is a Game’
This full strings, no brakes album closer is less “I am going the fuck through it, get me the mic and a bag of Hummus Chips” and more “I have learned about myself through a deeply traumatic period and have emerged phoenix-like, aware of my strengths and weaknesses, and I am about to give the girls the emotionally measured and but sonically bombastic finale they deserve because I won’t make an album again for another five years”. This feels like the resolution Adele, a true national treasure, deserves.
2) ‘Hold On’
One of the best things about Adele is the candour of her lyrics – on this song, she literally just says “I swear to God, I am such a mess” in what is the prettiest rendering ever uttered of something I have said word for word during a rancid hangover – and this song is testament to that. Divorced, yes; amazing and genuine and actually a bit heartbreaking? Undoubtedly, also yes.
1) ‘To Be Loved’
The most divorced song of Adele’s career, certainly, but also probably the best. Everyone I know who saw this video – of Adele sitting on a couch, singing “To Be Loved”, a six-minute epic featuring notes and runs of seismic consequence – reportedly cried as a result. If there is one thing divorce is probably going to make you do, it’s sob uncontrollably!
The recorded version of “To Be Loved” is an initially sparse piano ballad featuring the rawest and most fragile-sounding Adele vocal, featuring some home truths about losing yourself in romantic love. It is a gorgeous, triumphant moment on the album, and the sort of song that will have you packing your boyfriend’s shit up in bin bags and chucking them out the window and onto the pavement with mascara running artfully down your face, even if you’re in a perfectly happy relationship. So, everything you were hoping for, basically!