Adele released her fourth album “30”, which has been hailed by critics as her most candid and powerful work to date.
The singer’s long-awaited musical comeback has arrived after a turbulent era in her personal life. In 2018, at age 30, Adele tied the knot with her longtime partner Simon Konecki, but ended their marriage shortly after. In the wake, she lost a sense of herself and what makes her happy— or, in her own words, she “lost the plot.”
Adele, now 33, previously told fans the album is simply about “divorce, babe, divorce.” But her 12 new songs include an array of intimate confessions about motherhood, dating, depression, and loneliness.
“Music is my therapy. I’m never going into the studio to be like, ‘Right, I need another hit.’ It’s not like that for me,” she recently told Apple Music’s Zane Lowe.
“I don’t like being a celebrity at all, and they got to talk about my story like they knew it. And they didn’t,” she continued. “This is my story. I feel like it’s me taking back my narrative.”
Keep reading for a roundup of the album’s most personal lyrics, and what they reveal about Adele’s emotional journey thus far.
By: Callie Ahlgrim
‘You can’t deny how hard I have tried / I changed who I was to put you both first / But now I give up’
Adele wrote “Easy on Me” shortly after she broke up with Konecki.
“It was the first song I wrote for the album and then I didn’t write anything else for six months after because I was like, ‘OK, well, I’ve said it all,'” she told British Vogue.
In the song’s second verse, she seems to address her ex-husband directly, imploring him to understand her decision to leave. “You both” refers to Konecki and their 9-year-old son, Angelo.
“I wanted to explain to him, through this record, when he’s in his twenties or thirties, who I am and why I voluntarily chose to dismantle his entire life in the pursuit of my own happiness,” Adele said of Angelo. “It made him really unhappy sometimes. And that’s a real wound for me that I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to heal.”
Adele also said she wasn’t “miserable” in her marriage, but would have been, “had I not put myself first.”
‘I love your dad ’cause he gave you to me’
“My Little Love,” the third track on the album, includes snippets of bedtime chats between Adele and Angelo. She can be heard reassuring her son that she loves him, confessing to having “big feelings,” and trying to explain her feelings towards his father.
Adele was advised by her therapist to begin recording these conversations in order to ease her anxiety.
“I’d get paranoid that I might speak to him like he’s an adult,” she told Lowe. “That would bring on my anxiety attacks. So my therapist was like, ‘Just start voice-recording them. And now if you do get paranoid about what you might’ve said, you can listen back and reassure yourself.'”
‘I feel like today is the first day since I left him that I feel lonely… I feel a bit frightened that I might feel like this a lot’
The outro of “My Little Love” includes a voicemail that Adele left for a friend in the wake of her divorce, in which she can be heard choking back sobs.
“I’m having a bad day. I’m having a very anxious day. I feel very paranoid. I feel very stressed. I have a hangover, which never helps,” she says.
“I feel like today is the first day since I left him that I feel lonely. And I never feel lonely, I love being on my own,” she continues. “I feel a bit frightened that I might feel like this a lot.”
Adele explained to Lowe that she was having an “out-of-body” anxiety attack after drinking until 5 a.m. the night before.
‘I created this storm, it’s only fair I have to sit in its rain’
Adele told Lowe that “Cry Your Heart Out” is about her experience with depression.
“Sometimes it got so ridiculous how unwilling I was to leave the house,” she explained.
She said that her friends would often come to check on her late at night because she’d been sleeping all day, only to find her “on the floor, like the world has ended.”
It’s clear that Adele felt a great deal of guilt and grief after ending her marriage. However, during one of these episodes, one of her best friends helped pull her out of self-isolation.
“She went, ‘Well my husband died. You left your husband. So I’m gonna need you to wrap this up now, I want you to go and have a shower, and you’re going to go to the gym in the morning, you’re going to go and get your stuff done,'” Adele told Lowe. “And it was a real moment for me. I left my husband voluntarily, and here I was, paralyzed.”
‘Without your love, I’m hollow / I won’t make it, I won’t make it on my own’
Adele wrote “Can I Get It” when she became open to the idea of dating after her divorce, but was disappointed by the lack of commitment in Los Angeles.
“First of all, LA is not the fucking place to go dating when you’re Adele, I’ll tell you that,” she told Lowe. “But with watching my friends, it was all casual sex. And everyone has slept with each other. And I was like, ‘I’m not doing that.’ I’ve left my marriage to go forward, not to go backwards.”
She described the song’s inspiration as, “I’m telling you that I will love you forever, I’ll do everything in my power to make this work, I wanna make sure that I get hurt and not you when one of us does — OK great, you just wanna have sex.”
While presented as a straightforward pop song about falling in love, the upbeat production belies a darker underbelly. Adele’s lyrics betray a lasting sense of inadequacy (“Without your love, I’m hollow”) and hunger for validation (“I’m counting on you to put the pieces of me back together”) when she finds herself single again.
‘I hope I learn to get over myself / Stop trying to be somebody else’
Adele said “I Drink Wine” is about realizing that she’s “a hot mess.”
“Once you do realize it, it gets easier,” she told Lowe.
She also opened up about the “rage” she felt after her divorce, which she said was sparked by frustration with herself for ignoring her instincts for so long.
“Once I realized what it was, why that [anger] would happen, everything really started changing,” she said. “I left everything behind. Every actual trait, I left behind. My personality I took with me, but my traits and my habits and my patterns and all those things that were handed down to me from other people in my family, I was just like, ‘I’m alright. I don’t want it anymore.'”
Adele has been open about her parents’ divorce and how it affected her at a young age. She managed to reconcile with her estranged father just before his death earlier this year.
‘Loving you was a breakthrough / I saw what my heart can really do / Now some other man will get the love I had for you’
Adele told Rolling Stone that “Woman Like Me” shares a subject with the prior track “All Night Parking.”
Both were inspired by the first relationship Adele was in following her divorce: “All Night Parking” is set in the beginning honeymoon stage, while “Woman Like Me” finds the couple at their breaking point.
According to Adele, the long-distance relationship was “never going to work,” though she described the experience as “a great learning curve and nice to feel loved.”
“Woman Like Me” is easily the most accusatory song on the album, featuring searing lyrics about her ex’s complacency and laziness. However, its most poignant moment comes when Adele turns the gaze inwards.
“Even though I’m directing all the things I’m saying at someone else, they’re also things I’ve learned on this journey,” she told Rolling Stone. “The storyline of what I’m saying, I wouldn’t have been able to write before because it was something that I was experiencing myself.”
‘Sometimes loneliness is the only rest we get / And the emptiness actually lets us forget / Sometimes forgiveness is easiest in secret’
Adele spoke candidly about her post-breakup healing process in her interview with Lowe, including the several “gloomy” years she spent working through her feelings in therapy.
“Most of the time, it felt like I was never gonna come out the other side, which was scary. And I definitely lost hope, a number of times, that I’d ever find my joy again,” she said.
“Nothing made me happy. For a moment, anything to do with Angelo, I could feel pure love and joy for a split second,” she continued. “I didn’t realize I was making progress until I wrote ‘Hold On’ and listened back to it.”
Adele said she wrote the song’s chorus long before the verses and heart-rending bridge, which pays tribute to the times of loneliness and quietude that allowed her to re-center herself.
“Oh fuck, I’ve really learned a lot,” she said of her reaction to the song. “I’ve really come a long way. But you just don’t always notice it while you’re learning.”
‘Let it be known that I cried for you / Even started lying to you / What a thing to do / All because I wanted / To be loved and love at the highest count’
“30” sees Adele taking more accountability for heartbreaks and shortcomings than any of her previous albums: “I have to really address myself now,” she previously told British Vogue.
This is best exemplified by “To Be Loved,” the powerful penultimate track.
“It’s about time that I face myself,” she sings in the first verse. In the chorus, she embraces her losses, sacrifices, attempts, and failures as necessary steps on the road to growth.
This all comes to a head in the bridge, when Adele confesses she lied to her ex-husband — presumably about wanting to be with him — because she wanted to be loved.
Adele told Lowe that she’ll probably never perform this song live because she “can’t even listen to it.”
“I have to leave the room. I get really upset, really choked up,” she said. “When I was writing it and when I was singing it, I just envisioned Angelo being in his 30s. I guess I’ll sing it to him then.”
‘Surely you know that I’m not easy to hold / It’s so sad how incapable of learning to grow I am’
“30” was meant to be released one year ago in 2020, but was delayed due to the pandemic.
Adele said she considered scrapping the album completely in the interim, since it represented a raw time in her life — more defined by defeatism than hope — that she has since moved beyond.
“Love Is a Game” represents that tension, capturing a struggle with emotional stasis and fear that “no amount of love can keep me satisfied.”
Now, Adele is happily in love with Rich Paul, a sports agent she met at a mutual friend’s birthday party years ago. She told Rolling Stone that it’s the most “incredible, openhearted, and easiest” relationship she’s ever been in.
“I’m not frightened of loneliness anymore,” she added.