And here it is: "Hello," the first new music from Adele in more than three years.
The single is a straightforward ballad that sends Adele's voice flying. Following up on her 2011 album 21, an extraordinary tribute to a dead relationship with a still-beating heart, "Hello" examines doomed love. This time, though, Adele is writing from well beyond the relationship instead of from amid the wreckage. Even as she laments the end, "Hello" knows it's just checking in, then moving on.
Adele's vocals carry the weight of the song through its many repetitions, but in truth, the star of the video for "Hello" is its gorgeous direction. Xavier Dolan, a hugely talented young writer and director whose work includes 2012's hypnotic film Laurence Anyways, emphasizes Adele's otherworldly talent with a relatively stark background. The entire video is tinted — or, more accurately, faded. It mourns the relationship even as it luxuriates in its death.
Dolan's touch makes "Hello" feel just a little more tender, a little more bruised than a director with less specificity might have had. The best part of the video just may be the opening sequence before Adele even sings. Dolan's camera follows her closely as she tries to fix up an old house, snapping as she whips covers off dusty furniture, then lingering on the aftermath, almost fond.
At one point, you couldn't avoid Adele if you tried — and then she dropped out of the public eye almost completely
After such a long wait for scraps of any Adele news at all, this new song and video come to us mere days after she announced on Twitter that her highly anticipated third album will drop on November 20. "I'm sorry it took so long," she wrote, "but you know, life happened."
Keeping in tradition with her previous discography, the album is called 25, reflecting her age at the time she made it. While Adele's success comes from her enormous voice and passionate songwriting, it was helped along by some initial shock. The maturity of her albums versus her relative age has always been astonishing. Her 2009 debut album is a soulful tour de force — and it's called 19.
Even as 21 became a go-to breakup album, though, Adele's personal life rocketed in the opposite direction. She has since had a son with her partner, and has largely kept out of the public eye. Her theme for the James Bond film Skyfall (for which she won an Oscar) is, in fact, the only major project she has had in between albums.
And so 25 is inevitably going to be a very different album than 19 or 21 was, a fact Adele herself acknowledged in her album announcement. "If 21 was a breakup album, 25 is a make-up album," she wrote. "I'm making up with myself. Making up for lost time. Making up for everything I ever did and never did. ... turning 25 was a turning point for me."
In other words, 25 is a quarter-life crisis album. But if we can believe Adele's near-flawless track record, the singer will find some new, deeply felt way to express it — and "Hello" reminds us that she's not done writing torch songs just yet.