Adele’s “Hello,” the most popular song on earth, is a miasma of sustained notes and guttural emotion conveying heartbreak that is viscerally relatable to just about everyone over the age of eight. But even if you like the song and its itinerant remixes, it has one clear drawback, as recently illuminated by the New York Times: Adele has a consonant problem, and no one knows what she is saying.
From the fine print on my friend and colleague Jon Caramanica’s review of Adele’s third album, 25:
Correction: November 18, 2015
An earlier version of this review misstated a song lyric. Adele sings “Hello from the other siiiiiide,” not “outsiiiiiide.”
This comes from the passage:
Even when she is singing at her most powerful—“Hello from the other siiiiiide, I must have called a thousand tiiiiiiimes”—she’s never anything other than calm.
And yet, therein lies the problem with Adele’s “calm”; she is so relaxed that she need not even open her mouth, that the important part is the capacious melody of a sustained vowel,“iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii,” rather than “the other side” or “outside,” because both phrases reach the same conclusion, which is to say, Adele is sick of your shit. It increases the emotional relatability, but in the tradition of “‘scuse me while I kiss this guy,” popular music will grapple with her consonantal imprecision until the end of days. The remedy here, clearly, is to go to karaoke tonight and sing every Adele song using only vowels in solidarity, or in protest.
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