Adele, the wine-bar Wagner, is back. So is her new single any good?

With Easy on Me, after a six-year recording hiatus, Adele is back in the business of being Adele

EASY ON ME

By Adele
Columbia Records
★★★★☆
There are events of global significance, and then there is a new single from Adele. Released at midnight, Easy on Me is the first salvo in the English singer's new campaign to reinforce her status as the definitive pop star of the early 21st century. (An album, 30, follows on November 19th.)

And, with fans as far-flung as Alicia Silverstone and Lil Nas X taking to social media to articulate how deeply the track moved them, it is fair to say that, after a six-year recording hiatus, Adele is back in the business of being Adele.

One of the 33-year-old Londoner’s most impressive accomplishments has been her taking complete ownership of the Adele aesthetic. From the black-and-white video to the song’s register of grainy soulfulness, Easy on Me is utterly, emphatically and triumphantly “Adele”. Yet it somehow also represents a definitive artistic progression from 25, her 2015 album.

The song builds to one of those knockout Adele choruses that hit like a hurricane making landfall. And in which she so stretches out 'easy' that you could pop off to read all the Harry Potter novels and be back to hear her finish the note

That record was about growing up, loving and losing, and finally embracing a life of domestic bliss. On Easy on Me she has crawled back out of the looking glass and is gazing upon the sharp, glittering wreckage of her marriage.

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Adele divorced her husband, the charity executive Simon Konecki, in 2019. Speaking to Vogue UK recently, she explained that she wrote the new LP with their eight-year-old son, Angelo, in mind. She wanted to create a body of work that would help him make sense, as an adult, of his mother's decision to leave his father.

Yet in Easy on Me – produced by her regular collaborator Greg Kurstin – she seems to be addressing Konecki directly. "Go easy on me. I was still a child, didn't get the chance to feel the world around me," she sings. "Had no time to choose, what I chose to do, so go easy on me."

These sentiments build to one of those knockout Adele choruses that hit like a hurricane making landfall. And in which she so stretches out the word “easy” that you could pop off to read all the Harry Potter novels and be back in time to hear her finish the note.

It’s not subtle, and, truthfully, it isn’t all that different from the forces with which she has been conjuring all the way back to Rolling in the Deep. But if earth-moving torch songs are your thing there is little arguing with its effectiveness.

The autumnal quality is further underscored by the video, which reunites her with the director Xavier Dolan and which is presented as a sequel to the promo he made for her 2015 single Hello. In that video Adele arrives at a house in the countryside (in Quebec) and places a phone call to her past self. This time she is packing up and leaving that same dwelling and, having seemingly had another heartfelt natter with herself, driving into the sunset.

This isn't the happy ending Adele appeared to promise her fans on 25. Instead she is embarking on the next chapter of her life, as a divorced mother and someone once again looking for love. And from that rawness and hurt she has distilled a gale-force belter that will take a worthy place in her catalogue. Adele, the wine-bar Wagner, is back. And soon it is going to feel as if she's never been away.