SONG MEANING: “I Miss You” by Adele is about intimacy—sexual, emotional, and otherwise—in a relationship. Adele has doubts about the relationship, and the man may too, but the intimacy they feel when things are going well convinces Adele to keep trying even if she’s still afraid for the relationship when she’s not with him.
25 continues to make and break records for music sales around the world. Adele has truly done something amazing here, and perhaps “I Miss You” is one of the more amazingly mysterious songs from Adele’s new record. Journalist Hattie Collins with www.i-d.vice.com calls “I Miss You” a “ghostly hymn,” and it’s even more mysterious for what this hymn-like reverie is about.
In her interview Adele, the journalist guesses that the song is about sex, but Adele explains, “It’s about intimacy on every level. It’s about sex, it’s about arguing, one of the most intimate moments in my life. ‘Cause you just blurt it out. It’s a bit like, a drunk tongue is an honest one. That’s definitely my motto, in life. That’s why I don’t really like drinking no more. The panic you get when you wake up the next morning.”
“I Miss You” is deep and confusing, and it means a lot to Adele. For her, it’s full of thoughts and desires respectively on and for a frighteningly powerful relationship.
I’ve added “I Miss You” and several other recent hits to my Spotify playlist “Clifford Stumme’s Pop Prerogative.” Feel free to follow the playlist! (If the song’s not yet there, I’m waiting for it to release on Spotify. Thanks for your patience!)
Song meaning of “I Miss You” by Adele
The song’s title “I Miss You” is a reference to how Adele feels when the man is gone, and she shows the power of her feelings in the First Verse: “I want every single piece of you / I want your Heaven and your oceans too.” “Heaven” could be an allusion to the “glorious” aspects of him—the praiseworthy and awesome parts. “[O]ceans” could be a reference to his depths or the parts he doesn’t share with other people.
She continues (it seems) by explaining the sexual nature of their relationship. “Treat me soft but touch me cruel,” seems to be a reference an aggressive but sensitive sex life, and “I wanna teach you things you never knew” also seems to be sexual. Continuing her description, instead of being brought to her knees, Adele wants him to “[b]ring the floor up to my knees”—she doesn’t want to be forcibly moved, but wants him to shape the world around her as she “fall[s] into [his] gravity.” While she’s on the ground, he kisses her “back to life to see / [His] body standing over [her].”
This first verse suggests that in intimacy and in life in general, this man is aggressive and passionate—she enjoys that and wants more—to be swept up in his windstorm or to “fall into [his] gravity.” The description alludes to him being powerful—maybe too powerful for her—and shows how she’s being carried along in this desperate need for intimacy with him, though she’s curiously silent about his feelings or thoughts concerning her. He can “kiss [her] back to life,” and when she comes to, he’s “standing over [her]” in a position of power or dominance. She attaches much significance to his presence.
However, when she’s not being affected by his “gravity,” she’s worried about the relationship. In the Pre-chorus, she sings, “Baby, don’t let the lights go down . . . / Lights go down, lights go down . . . / Down, down, down.” The constant repetition suggests a falling or darkening of her thoughts and situation. As the lights go out, she feels stronger her fear that the relationship could be a bad thing.
A helpful mental picture to explain this situation would be Adele and the man being together in bed and then the lights fading out. As the darkness grows, Adele no longer sees the man or feels as affected by his attraction and begins to doubt the relationship—an idea furthered strengthened by the Chorus.
In the Chorus, Adele sings, “I miss you when the lights go out / It illuminates all of my doubts.” Usually darkness doesn’t illuminate things, but not being present in the moment with her lover causes her doubts to be stronger than ever. Rather than let the relationship go, she sings, “Don’t let go. Baby, give me light.” She wants to see him again and to live in the moments she enjoys so much.
The Second Verse begins with a visual image of “the way [his] body moves / Towards [Adele] from across the room / Brushing past [her] every groove / No one has me like you do.” He overwhelms her, and she feels his power all around her. She sings that he should bring his “heart” and she’ll bring her “soul,” but that he should “be delicate with my ego.” She wants him to be intimate with her, and she’ll give passion. He doesn’t want him to hurt her pride or vanity and wants to be closer with him; she wants to “step into your great unknown / With you and me setting the tone”—a plea that echoes many spouses’ desire to better know the deeper feelings of their partners, with them both working together towards mutual understanding and accomplishments together.
The Bridge complicates things further. Adele sings, “We play so dirty in the dark / Cause we are living worlds apart.” They are different, and those differences could be tearing them away from each other, so they argue harder when they feel apart from each other, or they have sex more passionately, almost as if these two activities (suggested by Adele’s comment above) could be glue that keeps them together and the relationship strong. But “[i]t only makes it harder, Baby / It only makes it harder, Baby / Harder, baby, harder, baby”—likely a demand for more effort or passion.
“I Miss You” ends with Adele singing the title eight times. She wants to see her lover again and for the lights to come back on so that she can forget her doubts and live in the passion-filled, entrancing moments she loves.
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.