Every now and then, I get a pang of jealousy for those lucky enough to have been inside the studio when certain songs were recorded. Sometimes it’s a guitar part, or a drum part like the one Neil Peart nailed in The Spirit Of Radio all those years ago.
More often than not, though, it’s a voice, a vocal take I would have absolutely given any or all of my limbs to hear when it was put to tape — or a digital file these days.
I’ve had two pangs this past month. The first came from Australia’s own Sia in her latest song, Alive, which I waxed slightly lyrically over here. But this past week, Britain’s own power-packed singer Adele absolutely nailed it. Her new track Hello honestly made me sit up and say “hello” as a result of her effort on the song.
I recommend not watching the video on YouTube, because it’s annoying, features underlying audio from the storyline, and some slightly off lip-synching. Instead, listen to it here (assuming you’ve got Spotify), and just close your eyes and marvel at this voice.
If you pay special attention to the way Adele sings — it’s kind of impossible not to — you’ll hear what an exceptional voice this girl has. We kind of all knew that, of course, but she’s gone up a notch with this track, I reckon. There is so much in there; emotion deluxe, insane power through the choruses, gentle story-telling in the verses. But there are a couple of standout points that just covered me in goosebumps, over and over again.
The first is her variation in the chorus around the 2:38 mark. The second time around — at 3:03 — her steadiness on the word “outside” as she pitch switches is utterly extraordinary. There is another demonstration of her brilliance in the same section of the final chorus around the 4:18 mark, where she drops in some wicked trills that defy belief. If you understand what it takes to actually do that in tune, you’ll know what I’m on about.
Adele has plenty of subtlety too. She is perhaps one of the best singers I’ve heard in recent years, and she’s certainly proved that with this track. It’s astonishing to think that had it not been for a friend posting her demo on MySpace about a decade ago — yes, I said MySpace — and XL Recordings picking it up and signing her, we might never have been treated to this.
I wonder if it can get any better. It’s hard to imagine it being any more spectacular than this.
By the way, I’ve dropped the video here if you want to put yourself through it. Around 85 million (and counting) other people have.