Hello, Is It Nostalgia You’re Looking For?

So, it’s here, Hello, Adele’s title track for her latest album 25, coming out on 20th November (yup, 27 days). And it’s a blast: the simple notes of a piano lead us in, then Adele’s voice joins the mix and we’re treated to a couple of minutes on an emotional rollercoaster. The lyrics belie a simple yet profound story of heartbreak and loss as Adele reaches out to a former lover to apologise for breaking his heart. She wants to meet him again to talk about the times they spent together, to say sorry to him and to revel in the sepia tone memories of their love. So Hello proves to be a ballad and an ode to nostalgia, a time that was. But is Adele really going to remain stuck in the past?

She describes 25 as her ‘make-up album’ – “I’m making up with myself. Making up for lost time. Making up for everything I ever did and never did. But I haven’t got time to hold on to the crumbs of my past like I used to. What’s done is done.” She talks about the flippancy of her teenage years, when the future “didn’t matter then like it does now” and life seemed not to have consequences. “Even following and breaking rules…is better than making the rules.” And isn’t nostalgia fascinating, how those memories from so long ago can still be so potent, wrapped as they are in our emotions and feelings. When life gets tough and we have to start growing up it’s nice to return to those times without consequences, if we were privileged enough to have them. To that time of naivety, before we had to get our heads around capitalism, economic recession and climate change. Yet the past, whilst a nice place to visit on occasion, is a dangerous place to live especially because it doesn’t really exist. Our memories are notoriously fallible and we often add fiction and fantasy to our histories. We put on rose-tinted spectacles in order to remember the good bits whilst detagging the bad and boring bits. Surely there’s got to be more to life than trying to vicariously re-experience what’s gone?

Adele, as brilliantly wise as she is, already knows that there is. Gone are the days of wanting to be older, of wanting more, of wanting something else, of wishing life away, of wishing she’d done things differently, of “wishing I’d waited and wishing I’d hurried up as well.” Instead she’s deciding to grow up and be the person she wants to be, aged 25: “teetering on the edge of being an old adolescent and a fully fledged adult, I made the decision to go into becoming who I’m going to be forever without a removal van full of my old junk.” Yes, she says she misses everything about her past, the good and the bad, “but only because it won’t come back” – and that’s nostalgia, longing for something that’s passed. So maybe Hello is also a farewell, a fond wave at the memories twinned with a letting go, letting them fade from Technicolor to sepia tone. Maybe it’s time to give a friendly two fingers to nostalgia and get living instead (probably not to the tune of Hello though, no, that one’s for those indulge-in-nostalgia moments).

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