Did you know Elton John released a new single on Friday? You’re not alone if it flew under — or nowhere near — your radar. How does a legend with the stature of Elton go unnoticed? It’s not because he’s a legacy act, past the prime of any mainstream pop praise. In fact, he’s enjoying a new upswing in his career thanks to the acclaim he got a few albums back with Leon Russell. No, the reason it was not heralded with trumpets traces back to one name. Adele. That’s the one you heard about.
After taking four and a half years between albums to take care of and enjoy her private life, or maybe just to have enough personal experience to fuel her writing (hereby known as the Taylor Swift Pledge), she dropped one singular song that made the entire world stop and pause for 4:55 (or six minutes if you were watching the video). I don’t have to recount the story of why, for surely we’re all aware of how big her last record, “21,” was. It’s been certified diamond, which means it’s sold over 10 million in the U.S. alone. Your mom, her parents and all of their bridge friends have it, and in today’s market, that’s huge. To find one artist that can draw that many people to one sound is unheard of. I’m surprised the government hasn’t enlisted her. She’s certainly already done her part for the economy.
About that new single though. I don’t like it. I’m aware that I’m one of the only people on the planet who doesn’t. To me, it’s formulaic, somewhat generic. Yes, she sounds great, and she can pull off the drama within the song without question. But, we’ve heard this song before, even from her. I’m not saying this as any kind of Adele hater. Her first record, “19,” was a stellar debut, and when “Rolling In the Deep” came out, I knew I had heard THE song of the year. It was such an easy prediction for a Grammy that I wish I had put money on it. And then “Someone Like You” happened. I don’t mind admitting that I would have never guessed that one. Nobody did. Nobody in the industry anyway. That was all you. One of those great moments where the people spoke and it happened. A groundswell from an album track results in one of the biggest songs of all time. So, in that, it makes perfect sense they’d go with “Hello” as the first single. It’s another “Someone Like You.” It’s got heartfelt lyrics … and takes a few cues from Frozen’s “Let It Go.” And Lionel Richie. By the time this piece publishes, I’m sure there will be plenty of GIFs and memes echoing just that, but like plenty of you, hearing that first line, I was instantly taken back to Richie’s now infamous stalker video. We’ll actually put that in the pro column on this one.
I may not be a fan of this song, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find this exciting. When it comes to pop stars, they don’t make them like they used to. The ones we do have aren’t really all that inspiring. Ed Sheeran, Maroon 5, Drake, Nicki Minaj. I wouldn’t say any of them are producing anything that we’ll put in the Greatest Songs of All Time canon. And their celebrity seems fleeting. Who knows which of those will ghost out of the party when we’re not looking (remember how big Black Eyed Peas were just five years ago?). Adele won us over not just because her songs were good, but because they feel more organic and real than what we’re used to with pop. “21” was this generation’s “Tapestry,” and it’s going to be hard to beat. But I hope she does. And for my own whining, I hope this new record has something better than “Hello,” because try as you might, you’ll never beat Lionel at that game — three decades since his last real hit and he’s still dancing on the ceiling — but seeing as how Adele’s got her own classics, I’m guessing she’s not losing any sleep over it. In the meantime, don’t let the overexposure kill it for you. It’s going to be everywhere. I expect Ben & Jerry’s sales to go through the roof. A lot of people out there are going to need a hug.
Kyle Meredith is the music director of WFPK and host of the nationally syndicated “The Weekly Feed.” Hunting bears was never his strong point.