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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Kassel

From Adele to her son and within herself, "My Little Love" presents a grappling with divorce

A standout from her new record, the string-guided track breaks new ground for Adele in just how personal she allows her narrative to be.


With this article, I've decided to take a slightly different approach, including the song's video at the end rather than near the beginning. I'm doing so to increase the emotional affect of the song's most powerful moments. Even though some of you have likely already heard the song because of the album's immediate success, I feel compelled to write this way based on my own reaction to the track.

 

With the craziness that was last week officially out of the way, I turned my attention musically towards the new releases I had missed from Friday. At the forefront of those was, of course, Adele's fourth album, 30. People had anticipated that it would be somewhat of a departure from her previous works given her divorce from Simon Konecki, but I was more skeptical than most seemed to be. I expected her to cover similar themes to what she had done on her two most recent albums, just with a more fleshed-out perspective on the loss of love and/or the realization it was never truly there all along.


From my first listen, I can safely say that I was more wrong than I was right. Adele tackled her personal conflicts head-on, and it made for a compelling and different listen compared to her prior work. "My Little Love" stood out as being especially personal through its use of Adele's conversations with her son, as both attempt to process each other's feelings as well as their own.


To be quite frank, I nearly forgot Adele had a son, between her privacy on her personal life and my lack of deeper investment in her music. As it turns out, it is through her son and her perspective on motherhood which "My Little Love" and 30 as a whole gain their greatest emotional impact. Adele's fears and anxieties are at the forefront of the track throughout its six-and-a-half-minute runtime, as she switches back and forth between battling through her pain and that of her son Angelo.


The string-laden backing sets the stage for the emotional reckoning which occurs above it. Strings always have a very emotive context in popular music, especially when they are given lead lines like they are here in "My Little Love." As the track builds, so too does the string arrangement, until the final release before the outro... when the main string melody still doesn't let go. It's as if the line represents the pervasive thoughts that Adele is letting Angelo down in the aftermath of her divorce.


Adele opens the song configuring her divorce squarely through Angelo's perspective, focusing on his blue eyes and ascribing the blame for his inner turmoil squarely on herself. In singing, "I know you feel lost, it's my fault completely," she implies that she was the one who made the decision to end her marriage, a statement she has since backed up in interviews. While in the long run the decision seems more likely to prove beneficial to Angelo by providing him with a more loving environment, the immediate pain is hard to move past. Making matters even more difficult for Adele is feeling that her son is "the only one who can save" her, grounding her through love and the responsibilities of motherhood. She tells Angelo in the choruses that she's "holding on" and has "got a lot to learn," but the short-term troubles remain the most evident for a child who is viewing their parents' breaking up as the closest outside party to the matter.


As powerful as the lyrical perspective may be, however, nothing Adele sings comes close to having the emotional affect that the interspersed voice notes do. Set apart sonically through their lower fidelity and greater reverberation, the voice notes are unfiltered pieces of Adele's personal interactions and grapplings with this new life phase. The first four excerpts are conversations between Adele and Angelo, and the final memo is a monologue from Adele as she lets out her grief over the divorce through a profound introspective passage. The last excerpt stands out to me not only for its length, but also for Adele's audible crying. For an artist who has dealt in romantic vagueness throughout her career, the emotional weight of her spoken words becomes all the more powerful.


Normally, I'd be compelled to include one or more sentences from the voice note within this post and analyze, but I believe the emotional weight warrants a different format, hence my decision to include the song's video at the very end of this post. Now that I've said my piece about "My Little Love," it's time for you, the reader, to let the song wash over you. Perhaps my writings will shape your views on the song, but in my view it's more likely that the song has such an impact that it will carry you to your own conclusions; whether or not those align with mine, I cannot say. I wrote this article in appreciation of Adele taking a musical and emotional risk in creating a track with such a deeply person narrative — especially as it ties into her son, a part of her life which she kept very private up to this song's release.


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