Five years removed from the record-shattering hurricane that was Adele’s 25, the Academy Award-winning songstress has returned with the lead single from 30, her upcoming fourth studio album. In typical Adele fashion, “Easy On Me” is an intensely emotional piano-led ballad. Gone is the bombast of “Hello.” “Easy On Me” banks on the sweet wistfulness of Adele’s falsetto and some of the best-written verses of her career.
“There ain’t no gold in this river / That I’ve been washing my hands in forever,” Adele croons. The water metaphor that anchors the song’s first verse is absolutely stellar. Adele likens her marriage to a river, a body of water where gold is typically found, in which she searched for happiness (read: gold) and stability. Although she is aware of the “hope” that lays in the waters of this relationship (ex: her nine-year-old son Angelo), the driving melody in the second half of the verse relays the ways in which the waters, and their corresponding shroud of silence, have consumed her and compounded her ability to swim. Each verse of “Easy On Me” is directed at a different party in the relationship. The first verse, a direct address to Adele’s ex-husband, is a devastating exercise that expertly outlines how excruciating falling out of love is. The second verse, a message and plea to the couple’s young son, attempts to explain her decision to leave the marriage in order to maintain the happiness necessary to keep her sane and to allow her to be a good mother. It’s heavy stuff.
Sonically, there truly isn’t any drastic departure from your standard Adele ballad. Nevertheless, the song is one of her most thematically unique tracks. There’s a nuance within “Easy On Me” that helps Adele parse through every layer of emotion that creates the conditions for marriage, apathy, love, divorce, and guilt. On the bridge, Adele starts to address herself singing about her original “good intentions and highest hopes” for the relationship. The vocal break on “I had” at the beginning of the bridge underscores the importance of the past tense here. It’s the apex of the song’s emotion which is contrasted by the comparatively softer “I know right now / It probably doesn’t even show” at the end of the bridge. Co-written and produced by frequent collaborator Greg Kurstin, “Easy On Me” features a soundscape that consistently builds from tender piano to a whirlwind of bass guitar, strings, and drums. Outside of “Easy On Me” undoubtedly being a strong record, it’s a smart song to return with. It’s a song that feels familiar, but it also feels like the end of a chapter. The lyrical growth here signals a new chapter for Adele’s sound which, if her recent Vogue interviews are anything to go by, will soon be displayed sonically as well.