It’s been four years since Adele released 21, the best-selling album of the 2010s so far, and she knows her fans have missed her: “Hello, it’s me,” she begins on her new single, her first since 2012’s “Skyfall.” “I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet.”
What’s changed? She hasn’t switched up the formula too much, and the success of Sam Smith aka “the male Adele” shows that fans are still hungry for this kind of sad, blue-eyed British soul. “My last album was a breakup record and if I had to label this one I would call it a make-up record,” she said in a statement on Tuesday, and that matches this first single, a piano ballad written from the perspective of someone who broke up with their lover but is now concerned with how quickly they’ve moved on (“Hello from the outside/ At least I can say that I’ve tried to tell you/ I’m sorry, for breaking your heart/ But it don’t matter, it clearly doesn’t tear you apart anymore”). In other words, the song has roughly the same conceit as “Someone Like You,” and anyone with lingering concerns about the state of Adele’s vocal chords will have their worries taken away by the belted chorus.
The video, directed by fellow precocious twentysomething Xavier Dolan (Dolan is 26), finds Adele in a remote house in Montreal trying to reach that ex-lover, portrayed in flashbacks by Tristan Wilds (who played Michael on The Wire). Aside from the monochrome look and occasional POV shots, the video is relatively straightforward and pretty effective, with Adele doing a full “November Rain” in the autumn wind during the climax. (It’s been trumpeted as the first video of its kind to be shot with IMAX cameras, but I doubt you’d ever be able to tell on your computer screen or phone—this seems like more of a marketing gimmick than anything.) The most daring, hard-to-explain choice in all this: Why is everyone in the video still using flip phones?