SONG MEANING: “Hello” by Adele is a post-breakup song about going back over the past and seeking closure. Want to find out more? Keep reading!

Four years after her last album, Adele is finally back! She’s releasing singles from her upcoming album 25, the follow up to 21 which she released last. About the distance and the changes in material between albums, she (according to Wikipedia) said, “My last record was a break-up record, and if I had to label this one, I would call it a make-up record. Making up for lost time. Making up for everything I ever did and never did. 25 is about getting to know who I’ve become without realising. And I’m sorry it took so long but, you know, life happened.”

And “make-up” instead of “break-up” is a great way to describe what’s happening in “Hello.” Instead of taking the stereotypical break-up song route and singing about how terrible the other person was, Adele sings about finding closure and talking over what happened so many years ago. And with that level of depth and maturity in a song, I have decided that I cannot wait for the release of the rest of the tracks on 25 on November 20th. I hope you’re excited too!

And just so ya’ know: I added (or will very soon add) “Hello” to my Spotify playlist “Clifford Stumme’s Pop Prerogative”! That’s where I keep my current favorites and current analysis subjects. I hope you enjoy!

The Explanation

Of course, I have to mention how deep and wonderful Adele’s voice is. You’ll never fully understand this song until you’ve listened to her singing it. If you haven’t listened yet, please do so and then continue reading. Her own voice may be the only explanation this song needs.

Adele - Hello - Dusty Furniture - Clifford StummeIn the First Verse, she begins with “Hello, it’s me.” She’s introducing herself to someone from her past. In the music video, we see her taking dusty sheets off old furniture as though she’s going back into the past to finish things not yet done.

She continues, “I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet / To go over everything.” She wants to find closure and to discuss with an ex-lover how things went wrong and where they are now. While “[t]hey say that time’s supposed to heal ya,” Adele hasn’t “done much healing,” and she’d like to force the healing process along–to get things in the open.

Adele - "Hello"
Adele – “Hello”

She continues to beg for the other person to respond to her. She sings, “Hello, can you hear me?” and explains that she’s still “dreaming about who we used to be.” She’s not necessarily day-dreaming about their relationship, but is at the very least thinking back to past times–time that she misses because they “were younger and free.”

Of course, now she’s “in California” singing and the man is elsewhere–they’re separated by “a million miles.” But that’s not the only difference. After the “world fell at our feet,” she realizes that there’s “such a difference between us.”

In the Chorus, she sings, “Hello from the other side / I must’ve called a thousand times.” She’s trying to tell him she’s “sorry for everything [she’s] done.” But he must be avoiding her (though in the music video he seems to feel some of the same things she’s feeling) because when she calls, he “never seem[s] to be home.”
The Ex Lover
The Ex Lover

She continues the chorus by singing that even though he won’t pick up, “At least I can say that I’ve tried / To tell you I’m sorry for breaking your heart.” While she won’t be able to get full disclosure, she at least hopes she’ll be satisfied that she tried and that her effort will be some closure for herself. Of course, the man doesn’t seem to need closure like she does: “But it doesn’t matter. It clearly doesn’t tear you apart / Anymore.” She interprets his silence as a lack of need for the peace she needs.

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In Verse 2, she seems to be leaving a message for him when she sings, “Hello, how are you? / It’s so typical of me to talk about myself. I’m sorry / I hope that you’re well / Did you ever make it out of that town where nothing ever happened?” Because he wont’ pick up, she continues the conversation on her own, continuing to wonder what he would say.

But her mission is still urgent. She believes that if they don’t talk soon, they’ll never be able to resolve what happened and will always carry that burden: “It’s no secret that the both of us / Are running out of time.”

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Easter Egg: Why the flip phone?

If you’ve watched the video, you probably noticed that Adele uses a flip phone at about 0:30. Why? Why not use something more modern? Author and Internet writer John Walker asked the same question and instead of wasting time pondering, turned the director himself.

Adele - Hello - Flip Phone - Clifford StummeHere’s what Director Xavier Dolan had to say: “The use of flip-flop phones is coherent with the rest of my work,” Dolan told me in an email sent by his agent. “I can’t get my head around filming iPhones—they’re too real, too identifiable with our everyday lives. Same for cars. I feel bad filming Toyotas and Kias. As soon as you film these elements, it’s like you’re shooting whatever commercial. I find them to be non-narrative elements.”

I hope you enjoyed “Hello” by Adele and my explanation! Please don’t forget to share, like, and follow on Twitter, Facebook, and this blog. I just started an insider e-mail list where I ask for your help to explain pop songs and let you know about new posts and podcasts. When you sign up, you’ll get a copy of my “Top 10 Tips to Help You Decipher Pop Music”!

Clifford Stumme has his master’s in English literature and is a blogger and a college instructor/desk-watcher at Liberty University. He likes juggling and reading/writing, and he is married to the wonderful and beautiful Wife April. He thinks pop music is awesome. Seriously awesome.thumb_IMG_6271_1024-1024x683

  • Diane

    This song is called Hello. But at times I hear her sing “Hallo” This song makes me think of Halloween or another term All Hallow’s Eve. October 31st is dedicated to remembering the dead, saints and martyrs. I heard this song for the first time this past Sunday. I believe it is about loved ones in heaven trying to reach out to us on Earth. With grief we do not get their messages. We are not open to this. We can not hear them and are missing their messages. My best friend and my husband recently passed away at 46 years old . After hearing this song several hours later I had an intense connection with both of my loved ones in my life here on Earth. People may die but their souls are still here on Earth and are with us. I so thank Adele for this song. It is powerful and she has connected me in a very special way and is helping me heal. Today’s society is too wrapped up and doing too much. Worrying about tomorrow and not focusing on today. We are so into social media that we miss out on the people we have right in front of us.

    • It definitely could be described as having a little bit of that vibe.
      I think that’s great–glad it was a beautiful song for you and thanks for sharing. It is such beautiful song.

    • Stewart

      Interesting how different people see different things. When I heard “Hello” I thought the singer had died and was aching to be with the one she loved and could not and was assuming responsibility for dying.

      • And it’s weird that you’re not the only one to have thought that either. Maybe there’s something to it…

  • Adele and Bieber having a conversation.
    – Hello?
    – Where are you now?
    – Rolling in the deep.
    – What do you mean?
    – Don’t you remember?
    – Sorry.

  • Jammie

    i dont know why but this song makes me think of my mom she passed away two years ago and i miss her so this song just seems to bring her close thank you adele

  • Courtnie

    This song is not about an ex. It’s her talking to herself. She trying to apologize to her old self for all the things she’s done and hasn’t done, as she previously stated. She’s trying to learn how to forgive herself. She even asks if they can talk because time can’t heal her regret. She’s an amazing lyricist so when she states, “Dreaming about who we used to be when we were younger and free. I forgotten how it felt before the world fell at our feet (before she was famous)” or “It’s so typical to talk about myself, I’m sorry”, she is letting us know who she is talking to. When she says “Hello from the other side” and “There is such a difference between us.. a million miles” she means the other side of all the wrong she has done and she has messed up so bad they’re two very different people now, so much that it’s a million miles (metaphorically). She’s saying that she didn’t handle life correctly and she knows it broke the heart of the girl she used to be, the girl that had such high expectations of herself. This was an apology to herself. Just like she said, “I would call it a make-up record. Making up for lost time. Making up for everything I ever did and never did. 25 is about getting to know who I’ve become without realising. And I’m sorry it took so long but, you know, life happened.”

    • Woah–that’s deep, Courtnie. Thanks! The part about her calling and leaving messages and the person not answering seems like the only part that’s kind of against your presentation, but even then it could be explained as her old self being dead. But if she is maturing, wouldn’t she have been able to make peace with her old self somehow?

      • Courtnie

        She never says that she leaves messages. She only says that she’s called a thousand times. What if she’s saying that she constantly tried to “talk to her older self” and apologize but her own regret was getting in the way and that she just can’t get over it. She’s not allowing her own apology. That’s why I think she says “you never seem to be home”. You might be right, that her old self is dead now and that’s why she isn’t responding or is never home. I think she can’t get past what she’s done and this is her “amends to herself” and she says “at least I can say I tried”

        • Oh right. My bad. Well that theory seems to be pretty water tight. Wow. It really is making me think too…

    • Dan

      Exactly

    • I love this interpretation.

    • J.T.

      Wow, exactly right probably, hence that flip phone she uses from the past… My first tattoo is a half way brown heart and when people all who broke it, for some reason, and I say I broke my own heart… I screwed up my past and only focused on myself, now I wish I could call myself and take it all back, but I can’t, so of course I can’t pick up…

      • J.T.

        I meant my tattoo is a broken heart and people ask I reply I broke it myself…

  • Trisha

    I believe this song is actually about finding herself, not reconnecting with an old boyfriend. The entire album is about rediscovering herself.

    • Thanks, Trisha. Someone else here you agrees with you–that makes two. I had better listen. I’m thinking about compiling an ebook of these song explaining posts, and I’ll definitely be featuring this theory. Thanks!

    • tuesday

      I think it’s obvious what this song is about. Although she may be discovering a new self in some fashion, she’s clearly pleading with someone she truly cared for and loved deeply to forgive her and let h r back in. I think that she clearly is calling from the other side, meaning that she isn’t here anymore. That is why the flip phone is so genious, it gives you so many hints that that she was doing this until the day she left this earth and she sadly never gets through to him, which to me is terribly heartbreaking.

      • Good analysis, Tuesday. (Also, if that’s your real name, awesome name.)

    • J.T.

      Adele said the last album was a break up song and the new one is a make up song and in this song she obviously didn’t get to make up if her call can’t go trough…but I am certain it’s true, she’s talking to herself, but I believe you cannot forgive yourself and I believe you can break your own heart

  • When I first heard this song I pictured that she had an intense stormy relationship with a man long ago, and she cheated on him, and broke his heart. And when he discovered her with her other lover, in a fit of rage he killed him but fled the scene and was missing/hiding for many years, but much later he is eventually implicated in the murder and his execution is now at hand. And it’s too late for them, too late for a resolve, he is going to be killed and she blames herself.

    • Wow–that would be super intense. Because we see the guy in the video, I have a feeling he’s not dead, but wow. Maybe you should be writing these songs.

  • tuesday

    That is really clever. I’m thinking about this now.it could very easily be what it’s about however I feel if that were the case they probably would have hit upon that in the video, but it’s very haunting that’s for sure, almost creepy.
    I don’t think I would play this song while being alone for fear of someone sneaking up behind me to tap me on my shoulder and finding no one really there, or are they??
    Haunting and a bit frightening.

  • robbeebobbee

    If you break up with someone, and then years later apologize for breaking their heart, you need counseling…

  • Observer

    Love it. She looks great. He’s adorable. And if you slam some headphones on you can hear them chattering quite clearly in the background in places. Best part is you can hear her really cackling at him and I’m sure it’s Adele’s voice.

  • Donald

    Typical, woman breaks guys heart and then is the victim because he won’t answer her calls, it doesn’t matter, clearly doesn’t tear you apart? Then leave him alone, You broke his heart and now you need closure? Get out of here!! Lol women!!

    • Well, we don’t know that she did the heart breaking alone…

  • Just a Guy

    Had my ex text me to listen to this song. Not sure what message my ex wants to get across to me???

    • I could very easily assume the worst about your ex because of that test, but I don’t really know. My guess is that the ex wants to reminisce on the past and hope for resolution in your relationship. Worst case, she wants you to feel guilty about the past and nostalgic for her.

  • Same here at just a guy, that’s why i’m here tryna figure out his motive lol

  • Wednesday

    I instantly felt this was about a love lost and before amends could be made he died. Uncovering his belongings at the home they once shared. Putting his affairs in order as she grieved the loss, that she couldn’t make amends for now. He clearly isn’t bothered anymore.

  • Caedon

    This could be played in a point of view of adele’s ghost. In the beginning, there are dead flies that symbol death. The winds are soft, keep this in mind as it is relevant. Then the camera is shooting at her as if she was being spied on. Then adele uncovers all the furniture that shows her looking at past memories. but she spends time looking at this dark chair,her ex (remember, they symbol memories). Then she makes tea to sooth and heal her. But why else do you need to heal? Wouldn’t you unpack? Because she need’s want’s to sooth her self after seeing that awful memory. She hasn’t done much healing, because she couldn’t be alive (a friend of mine says the fire and steam are a theory that she died in a fire). She starts off with a flip phone, then to a landline, this shows that their communication is getting worse. You can’t communicate if you’re a ghost can you? “hello from the other side” the side from death and alive. “I must have called a thousand times”: ghost wail out at the night. In casper, ghost don’t pass over because they have unfinished business, her business is to say sorry. He doesn’t seem to be home because ghost can’t can’t real see the living. Then she says, “hello from the outside” not inside. This shows that she is outside of the world. She wailed and wailed, but no luck: She tried. The fingernails: there black: black symbols death. Then the image shows her half covered, as if she’s hidden. When her boyfriend leaves, he’s in the rain: rain symbols sorrow, also his hood is up. Then she calls from a phone booth, A PHONE-BOOTH! The wire isn’t even hooked in correctly: this shows how bad the communication is getting. And how long she hasn’t called, or been dead. Then she asked if she made it out of that town where nothing happened, she left the world. “Running out of time” Time till she dies. “I’m sorry, for everything i’ve done” She’s telling her alive self she’s sorry, about her death. The phone booth is in the middle of the woods: She’s lost: this could be the void between reality and heaven. Then she’s in the open fields, any more running away wouldn’t result in her getting lost. “hello from the outside” She’s gone. Then the boyfriend has his hood down, to show that he’s no longer afraid. She, and i quote, says “AAAAAAA OOOOOO” something a ghost would say, Now her past self is now the ghost and the ghost is now, go on, guess, I’ll tell you anyways. Now theres a river. River’s could symbolize her purity. Now remember when i said the winds are soft, now they’re rushing, they show stress letting go. she’s now in a peaceful place: heaven. Now she’s looking out the window. Ghost usually creep around windows don’t they? Now he’s calling (finally), but adele doesn’t reply. She’s letting go. (END) This house she was in was like her hell. It was torture seeing all these memories and all these phones to call her boyfriend but it was torture being miles away from him and her never replies. The soothing woods and river shows her in her heaven. Tell me if you think the same.

  • Rod

    I think she is a ghost, calling from the other side. She is dead, clinking to her past life and her dude has moved on, obviously.

    • A lot of people have suggested that actually. Based on my research, I still think it’s about an old flame, but I can see where you’d hear that. And you may still be right.

  • MG

    I’m glad so many people thought of the meaning for this song that deep! although my sister and I strongly believe from the very first time we listened to this song that her boyfriend is dead!! Then when we watched the video we actually became even more sure about that .. She calls someone in the video and cries ( she found out he’s dead then ) .. ” it clearly doesn’t tear you apart anymore” and she keeps repeating “anymore” since he’s dead he won’t care or be hurt or whatever .. also ” hello from the other side” made us even believe more that he’s dead .. might sound weird but just wanted to share my thoughts :)

  • Jully

    It’s interesting that so many comments mention death. Have you ever heard of The Piano Guys? They’ve recently done an instrumental arrangement mixing Adele’s Hello and Mozart’s Lacrimosa. Below is the comment I left in response to another person on their video. Would you critique my critique? Please be gentle, English isn’t my first language. Cheers! :-)

    “Yeah… I didn’t completely dislike it, but I think it fell a little flat, specially comparing to some of their other efforts. I have to disagree as to the two source pieces having the same feeling and I feel that’s where the problem is at.

    Lacrimosa is a fragment of the Dies Irae (Days of Fury) poem, which is a part of the old Catholic requiem mass. The whole thing speaks of the final judgment at the end of days, and this part describes how the guilty man will rise tearfully from the ashes to be judged, and begs both God and Jesus for mercy. This piece of music was the last that Mozart wrote, he died in the middle of composing it. To me it speaks of the despair of facing untimely death, and the tragedy of unfulfilled promises and potential. This is not the Requiem for someone who died in their sleep due to advanced age.

    Adele’s Hello has a more settled feeling, so to speak. The emotional storm has already passed, she sings of a relationship that’s clearly over and has been for a while, although it was not well resolved. While she wants closure, there’s no despair to be found in this song. She’s giving the situation a last shot, but if it doesn’t work, “at least I know that I’ve tried.”

    I think that the dissonance of feelings is what’s not working for me in this song. I actually liked how the technical aspects were resolved in the arrangement, though I don’t remotely have the musical knowledge to offer a meaningful critique of it.

    All this being said, Steven’s utter joy when playing even the saddest song makes everything better. I truly think he could play the most banal song and transform it into something moving.”

    • Very interesting critique. I’d have to listen to the YouTube video myself, but I think you could be onto something. Adele is settled, and the storm has passed. Does the way they connect the songs reflect the rising dissonance of the first song and the settled sadness of the second?

  • Irene

    I thought the flip phone was there cause the whole video is telling about something in the past, something that happens long time ago when she was trying to find peace after some heart breaking incident. The flip phone indicates how long ago it all happens, her trying to find peace or disclosure post heart break I mean, but to no success, and thus, even until this day she’s still haunted by the memories and still seeking a disclosure. When I think of it that way, the song and the video becomes one full story. The video shows her old self seeking for peace and the song shows her new self, still looking for that peace. It’s like explaining her whole life.

    Well, at least now I know why the director put the flip phone there.

  • yuvraj

    can you eexplain also explain car radio by 21 pilots, please!

    • Good news! I just did in a podcast! Check out the podcast link in the menu above.

  • Say what you will. It sounds like an apology for falling for the zeal of the feminist ethic only to be eventually met with a resultant indifference from the male side of the equation.

  • Erika

    I think this song is about trying to reconnect with an ex lover and that she regrets her decision.