Adele 25 Album Cover
Adele 25 Album Cover

SONG MEANING: Adele’s “Love in the Dark” is a classic breakup song. Living with this relationship is living “in the Dark,” and Adele realizes that she want to “live” and not just “survive.”

If you found this post helpful or think I’m awesome, please share or tweet! Thanks!

“Love in the Dark” is a slow, sad, beautiful song from Adele, and it’s probably based on a lot of what 21 was based on. Adele has said that 25 is a make-up album, as opposed to 21 which was a break-up album. However, in this song, Adele does reach back for a little of what made her famous and executes it skillfully in this song.

Adele - When We Were Young 3

I’ve added “Love in the Dark” 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!)

The Meaning of “Love in the Dark” by Adele

Adele begins Verse 1 by singing, “Take your eyes off of me so I can leave / I’m far too ashamed to do it with you watching me.” She wants to leave the relationship, but her heart still pulls her back to this person who part of her thinks maybe she shouldn’t be leaving. And this isn’t the first time that she’s tried to make this decision: “This is never ending, we have been here before / But I can’t stay this time ’cause I don’t love you anymore.” She has finally made a permanent decision and plans to stick with it.

She continues by asking him not to come after her: “Please stay where you are / Don’t come any closer / Don’t try to change my mind.” She wants him to stop trying to get her to come back because she believes this will be best for both of them: “I’m being cruel to be kind.”

In the Chorus, she sings, “I can’t love you in the dark.” Their relationship is in a bad place for her; it leaves her with uncertainty, and she wants a relationship that’s “well-lit” and has direction, purpose, or certainty. She sings about they have different purposes or personalities when she “we’re oceans apart / There is so much space between us.” She’s different–“everything changed me”–and believes they may be “already defeated” and that it’s not worth trying to salvage this wrecked relationship.

"Adele - Live 2009 (4) cropped" by CHRISTOPHER MACSURAK. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons -
Adele Live

In Verse 2, Adele tries to assure the man in the relationship that he has been good for her in some ways. She sings, “You have given me something that I can’t live without / You mustn’t underestimate that when you are in doubt.” He has helped her to develop in some way–maybe through increased confidence or the discovery of a new skill–but she still doesn’t “want to carry on like everything is fine.” Just because something good has happened, they shouldn’t necessarily stay together.

Adele explains that their problems have been the source of their fights and that they can no longer “ignore it.” As she’s giving this news, she doesn’t want him to “fall apart” because she “can’t face your breaking heart.” She knows she’s giving bad news and just wants him to be strong for her a little bit more while she does what she has to do. For her part, she’s “trying to be brave.” She just wants him to “[s]top asking me to stay.”

In the Bridge, Adele sings, “We’re not the only ones.” Others have had to break up like this and gone through similar experiences; he shouldn’t question the breakup just because it’s a new experience for him. Adele doesn’t “regret a thing.” She meant and “always” will “mean” “[e]very word I’ve said.” She really did love him. She assures him that “[i]t is the world to me / That you are in my life / But I want to live / And not just survive.” Essentially, Adele gives him the huge compliment of saying that he’s “the world” to her but explains that if she doesn’t go and find other “worlds,” she’ll never thrive and only just barely stay alive.

The Outro accurately summarizes the entire song when Adele sings, “Cause . . . everything changed me / And I . . . don’t think you can save me.” She’s different and needs to move on somewhere else. The problems she’s going through now this man can’t solve, and she needs someone or something else.

Sign up for Song Meaning Pro and never Google “what does [insert song] mean” again. When you sign up, you’ll also get my “Top 10 Tips to Help You Analyze 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.

Clifford Stumme

  • Hei, actually I think it is a song to her latest boyfriend, her baby’s father…When she sings “you have given me something I can’t live without ” I think she means he has given her her son 🙂

    • Interesting. Thanks!

    • Arthur

      I THINK THAT TOO!!!!! Nobody realises but that song is for her actual boyfriend. This “something” is their son, and “I cant love you in the dark” is something that is hapenning to her and she does NOT sing that song on her shows. Why?

  • Tonya Stampfl

    I think it’s her ex and without that break up she wouldn’t of wrote 21 , which went on to do great things

  • Kate Greaves

    When ’25’ came out I just had my first baby. I have listened to this album every car journey since (it lulls my baby to sleep). I have felt a lot of emotions hearing all the songs on the album and have particularly resonated with ‘remedy’, ‘love in the dark’ and ‘all I ask’. Like Adele, I too suffered Post Natal Depression. Not only did I feel the feelings she expresses throughout Remedy towards my daughter – but I have often also felt the feelings of the other two songs towards my husband. I love him very much – but in the haze of PND it is an intense darkness.

    My understanding of this whole album is that it is a love note to her partner and her son (and I believe she has said this herself).

    I believe that Love in The Dark is a song that encapsulates how depression can make you feel towards a loved one. I don’t think it is about a past partners, but a reflection of how Adele is feeling/has felt towards her partner during the hardest times.

    My understanding may be wrong but that’s the conclusion I come to having been in a similar place and come out the other side like she has done.