It started last night. I was at a high school dance, chaperoning, of course. When it came time for the last song, the slow one, the romantic one, the "belly rubber," the DJ busted out Adele's recent but already mega hit, "Hello."
I had heard the song before, in a room with a bunch of high school guys who were supposed to be studying, but instead were going crazy over Adele's latest. They asked me what I thought of it, and I kind of shrugged my shoulders.
But when I left the dance last night, "Hello" was kind of in my head, and, as I had noticed, most everyone at the dance, student and chaperone, but me, knew every word to the song. After it only being out a couple of weeks.
So I jumped in. I went for it. I embraced my inner pop listener. I, for once, joined and became part of the phenomenon. I binged.
And at nearly the end of 24 hours, I have probably heard the song 15 to 20 times. I listened to it all the way home, from the dance venue to the didn't-have-any-supper Sonic stop and the long line there approaching midnight. I played it out to Cracker Barrel this morning, over to Publix. I introduced it to my wife a couple of times when we went to get her glasses fixed. I sang it in my head, thought about it, waited in the car for her and broke down the lyrics. I let the song get inside me.
I would never do any of this for any of "my" songs, tending to think that most songs have a shelf life, and if they are great songs, why rush them toward their expiration dates? But I know little of Adele, missed the last craze, can't claim to be a fan or not, and so the song, catchy as it is (and odd as it is as a dance closer), is disposable to me.
"Hello" is an unusual song, a song out of time. Built around an Em-G-D-C ( perhaps in a different key) verse and the same chords in different order (Em-C-G-D) for the chorus, the premise of the song is fantastical, at least in a romantic way. The speaker calls an old lover from many, many years ago to see if he'd "like to meet to go over everything." Um. No. I wouldn't. You wouldn't. He wouldn't. Who would? Reopen old wounds wounds? Not hardly.
But it's difficult to ignore that kind of pain, maybe more difficult to pretend you never had it.
The other bizarre detail is that the speaker claims to have called a thousand times, but the former lover she is trying to reach is "never home." The song lives in a universe where cell phones don't exist, where that many unanswered calls would be a clear, unambiguous message. And unable to shake her self-obsession (I guess she is talking to an answering machine?), she takes solace in the facts that a) she called to apologize and b) at least she tried all these years later.
The chorus, the oh-so-catchy chorus, shifts each time between "Hello from the other side" and "Hello from the outside", both very interesting distinctions. The first seems to echo a kind of war/conflict that won't end, while the second reinforces a Springsteenish idea in the song that she got out of "that town where nothing happened" while maybe he didn't. Or I'm wrong.
My daughter was singing the chorus around the house today, independently of my project. It's ubiquitous, it's that engaging and maybe, if you listen, that unnerving. But as for me, I have gorged on it, and now, if it will let me, I will move on. I'd like to think that I have devoured the song, that there is nothing left but a carcass of skin and bones, but I don't know. I find myself plunking it on the guitar, mapping out my own take. I just don't know if I'm finished with it.