The entire month of October, one song reigned supreme in the public eye: Drake’s “Hotline Bling.” The weird, minimal instrumental, coupled with the easily digested lyrical content firmly cemented the song into the public consciousness. Then he released a video and it was all over: Director X’s minimalist video highlighted Drake’s goofy dance moves, seemingly destined to be cut up into 15-second clips for Instagram and Facebook.
Currently, we’re seeing the tail end of Drake hype for 2015: the parodies have all been posted, the song is on its way out.
Enter Adele’s “Hello.” Off her much anticipated 25 album, the British singer saw a huge buzz surrounding the song and the video, which features Adele in sepia tone looking sad and…not much else.
The song (and its accompanying mashup video with Lionel Richie) has the internet abuzz, excited to be rid of Drake crooning about his cell phone and who used to call him on it.
There’s one issue with this excitement. These songs are, at face value, more or less the same.
Let’s consider the essential elements of both:
- Both songs are directed at a former love interest
- Both protagonists (Adele and Drake) express regret about the way things ended and where they are now,
- Both songs relate to a phone call
That last point seems like kind of a stretch, but not enough to warrant its removal. I’ll get to it in a little bit.
The first point is the most obvious. Drake and Adele have built their entire careers on songs about their love lives. Adele’s last album 21 rode to critical acclaim on a few choice anthems about former loves. From “Rolling in the Deep” to “Someone Like You,” the whole album charts the tumultuous terrain of young adult love.
Likewise, Drake’s entire career has seen the artist contrast traditionally boisterous hip hop songs with deeper songs about his own troubles, often in the same song (case in point, Drake’s verse in the Lil’ Wayne-featured “HYFR“).
That’s the first point, so far so good. The second point is a bit more complex, however. Both songs are primarily about regret, but while Adele expresses remorse for breaking the subject’s heart, Drake’s regret is based around he and the subject having grown apart with his career taking off.
Drake’s tone comes across as more judgmental: he talks about the girl’s lifestyle having changed from the (supposedly) more wholesome life with Drake to a party lifestyle.
Adele is in full on apology mode, with a little bit of buyer’s remorse mixed in. She seems like she regrets not only hurting the person, but also ending the relationship as a whole. The end of the chorus is sung with a kind of resigned acceptance:
“At least I can say I tried / to tell you I’m sorry for breaking your heart / But it don’t matter, it clearly doesn’t tear you apart anymore.”
In this way, both of these songs speak to some aspect of relationships. Sometimes people have a clean break, but then one makes some decisions the other doesn’t agree with, a la “Hotline.” Other times, the split is less than amicable and whoever made the decision to break it off might have some regret and question it.
The third point seems kind of odd, but I think it’s important to consider the fact that both of these songs reference cell phones. Adele’s video for “Hello” opens with her calling the subject of the song on her cell phone, and Drake references it in the hook of “Hotline.”
The cell phone is probably the most important piece of technology of he last ten years. In such a short time we went from flip phones with minimal extra features to tiny computers capable of holding hundreds of gigs of data. Conversation doesn’t happen outside of text in many cases, but both Adele and Drake are of the generation who grew up before texting, so the focus is on actual conversation.
It’s that time of the year when the weather gets cold and people start pairing off. However, the pop world is firmly rooted in the past, writing songs about what might have been. It’ll be interesting to see what comes next, but for now we’re riding the Adele wave.