Hello, When We Were Young. Never been the greatest Adele fan, but this is everything. She has outdone herself—in songwriting, in delivery, in artistry, and in live performance. The song has repetition, but not to the mundane extent of “Hello“. Both songs capture a feeling of longing so common, every songwriter wonders why they failed to think of it. But here her vocals are better. I’m a little annoyed by the speech-singing and pronunciation of “movie” throughout, but she makes it work. My favorite (often spine-tingling good) moments are listed below.
—Fabulous gay boy better do her hair.
—Her lows on the [u] “move” at 1:10. Turn up that low end.
—Her look at the camera at 1:16. On “watching you,” of course.
—Finally a free vibrato on the [o] “song” at 1:56.
—Controlled crack on “case” at 2:09.
—I love the giant wart of a misplaced breath, smack dab in the middle of the sentence (“though we might be exactly…) at 2:12 and 3:19 (the better one). To me, it communicates the emptying of herself to the point of breathlessness and vulnerability as she expresses what she’s saying. So good.
—Slide up to a straight-tone [ʌ] “young” at 3:10, which I actually prefer to the later slide because it’s so crystal clear, doesn’t glitch, and is perfectly in tune.
—Despite her Patti LuPone-like lack of clear diction, her tongue flopping around like a loose sponge, every word is nevertheless discernible. She’s finally found the perfect balance between tongue freedom and enunciation.
—The moment everyone’s living for: the slide on [ʌ] “young” up to Bb5 and then up to Eb6 at 4:29-4:36. This is, by the way, the same note Idina Menzel can’t make happen in live performance on the last note of “Let it Go”, and on virtually the same vowel. Adele’s vibrato isn’t exactly free or consistent here either—I personally think it’s coming more from the twitching movement of her head rather than a free laryngeal oscillation—but it is SO well done nonetheless and full of raw emotion and determined execution. Unlike Menzel, her larynx is healthily low instead of shooting out her nostrils, which is how she can make it happen (with a rasp, but still).
—MY OWN FAVORITE section: 4:44 she grabs the mic in a gesture of abandonment to the music. At 4:55 she throws in a neighboring high grace not on “were” that is SO well-done, followed immediately by an [o] “before” that has the perfectly deep laryngeal position to allow a free vibrato, and culminating in the best part of the song from 5:04-5:10. The words are new (“Oh, I’m so *mad* I’m getting older, makes me reckless”) and check out her lower lip on “older” at 5:07. Incredible. It’s an “old”-looking face (acting) and the lip pursing actually stabilizes her larynx at the same time (vocal technique)
—She finishes and immediately at 5:24 shrugs her shoulders to her (awestruck) band, as if to brush off the seriousness of the song. It’s a defense mechanism, which makes it clear how true the song rings for her. She’s kind of a jerk and diva to everyone around her, but at her core she is the source of all the angst of this song—human and beautiful.