“Just because I’m a mom it doesn’t mean I have to change,” says Adele in a new video for her lush ballad “30.”
She makes the case that despite a track record of accepting (relative) women’s rights and celebrating gender equality, she is still a woman and just like you, she is motivated by her own yearnings.
“30” appears on Adele’s third album, 25, which, like her first two albums, hit the top of the charts and made Adele a global music sensation. For a while, this perspective seemed ideal: she was a great communicator, funny and wry; she was upfront about her sexuality and feminist politics. She lived in the moment, confidently embracing the moment, saying the things that everyone’s thinking about. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, quite a bit. If Adele has changed, she hasn’t actually seemed to do so. “Hello” is, is the not “Rolling in the Deep,” and it plays like a relic of a time when audiences were more willing to listen to women — not just to sing about women, but to embrace them. The shift isn’t quite that dramatic, however: some of the best moments on 25 are still classic Adele moments, a combination of “remember me?” and “she’s a fucking genius.” But for all that, 25 lacks the urgency of 25’s debut.
“30” was, of course, meant to be an anthem for women, but for whatever reason, the song — in which Adele insists, “There’s nothing different/ I still think I could be who I want” — sounds less like a manifesto and more like an observation. The hope is that the song could sustain itself for multiple verses, but as soon as she looks away, the tune dies.
Adele, then, is a trailblazer, a rapper. She still ends the two-minute verse by thanking Beyoncé, for example. But her songwriting has become less catchy, more self-referential. The song hooks eventually give way to a more provocative lyricism, discussing things like sex addiction (“I got f***ed up — just to keep you on the heel”) and late-night, unwanted urges (“I wanna hear about your sh*t”).
In other words, “30” shares characteristics with the short and sweet “Hello,” a song about women who were troubled by the past and wanted to control their fate in the present. “Hello” sounded the same on vinyl: Unsatisfied, Adele decided to change everything. In an era when we are more likely to listen to songs about the private, the playfully new is easier to swallow.
And so we wonder again: Is this the last great pop-song tour for Adele?