Matt James: You say “Hello” I say “Goodbye”. Seriously does anyone else believe Adele has already ruined Christmas? This self indulgent, “Touch your inner child”, blubfest has been out about two minutes and I’m already seeing the album cover in my sleep-slash-nightmares. The brutally Orwellian extreme close-up. Those icy, dead eyes scrutinising our every move. The po-faced pout ready to unleash the grey terrors that will surely swallow this world whole. Resistance? Futile. Escape? Pah, impossible! Smith and Sheeran step aside, The Führer and Supreme Commander of the New Boring has returned to claim her Throne. The Adele Apocalypse is in Full Sequence. This is how our dearly beloved Popworld ends… not with a banger but with this grim whimper. Hey, at least now we know what Lee Marvin meant when he sang that line in “Wandrin’ Star” way back in ’69, “Hell is in ‘Hello’”. [666/10]
Brice Ezell: Predictably, the Buzzfeed-saturated internet chose to focus on perceived oddities in the video for Adele’s first new single since 2011’s 21, “Hello”, rather than the actual music itself. But while commenters across multiple websites argued the choice to include a flip phone in the Xavier Dolan-directed video, the rest of us were enjoying what is another fine tune by this incredibly powerful singer. “Hello” is the kind of stately piano ballad that Adele shows mastery of on 21; it’s incredible what depth can come out of only a piano and Adele’s voice. The composition of the track is emotionally lush, which bodes well for the rest of the forthcoming 25, on which “Hello” serves as the opening number — talk about a way to kick things off. Lyrically, Adele takes a somewhat different tactic than the breakup ruminations of 21, though heartbreak is still a topic of interest. “At least I can say I’ve tried,” she declares in the chorus, “To tell you I’m sorry for breaking your heart / But it don’t matter, it clearly doesn’t tear you apart anymore.” On 21, Adele was the victim of love; on “Hello”, she’s seeing what it’s like to be the one doing the damage. Yet there’s still a lovelorn, accusatory aspect to “Hello” that brings to mind songs like “Someone Like You” in lines like, “It clearly doesn’t tear you apart anymore.”
Dolan’s video for “Hello” is an appropriate visual flourish to what is already a rich tune. The heavy sepia filter drapes the music in nostalgia, a fitting match for Adele’s lyrical backward looking. And then there are the close-ups of Adele herself: it’s been a good four years since any new music from her, but in every respect she hasn’t lost a step. One need only watch her stare into the camera and sing her heart out for proof. [8/10]
Paul Duffus: Bearing in mind that this video has now had 82.7 billion YouTube views, it seems I must be one of the few sentients beings on the planet who is left entirely cold by Adele’s voice. I feel the raw lung capacity at work, but technically, aesthetically, I don’t get the big whoop.
We can try and talk “Hello” up into something it isn’t, something sharper, more avant, but in reality it’s a pretty OK power ballad that wouldn’t sound out of place on one of those Now That’s What I Call Bonnie Tyler compilation albums, constructed as it is of all the traditional MOR nuts and bolts, namely the ominous piano chords, the strings, and the methodical manner in which it all builds to a grandstanding bloat of sound at the end. “Hello” is not overtly stupid, but nor is it particularly artful.
There is a certain calculating skill to knocking together this kind of product though, as evidenced by the screaming, stinking scorn dumped all over Sam Smith’s recent Bond theme, a task which Adele by comparison carried off with ease. It’s not as simple as it looks, this Adult Contemporary nonsense. [4/10]
Colin McGuire: “Once 26 or 29 or whatever she decides to call her next album is finally released, we should all do our best to remind ourselves not to be predisposed to automatically dismiss whatever it is, based solely on the notion that its title isn’t 19 or 21.” I wrote that for this very website in 2012, making the case for us to still love Adele whenever she decided to come back. And now she has, with both “Hello” and 25 (dammit, I was only one year off!). This song is fine enough … until it hits that first chorus and you’re reminded: “Ahhh, so there‘s Adele!”. It’s that voice. That power. That confidence. The interesting part actually comes when the vocal crescendo hits — there’s a tiny inflection in her voice that’s only earned with age. It’s just a little lower, a little more raw (which, admittedly, could have something to do with the vocal cord surgery she had a while back). Still, there’s no denying that presence of hers, there’s no denying that honesty. The only quibble here would be the decision to reintroduce herself with a ballad like this. There’s a reason “Rolling in the Deep” came before “Someone Like You”, radio-wise, and it would have been nice to see her return to those gospel influences before slowing things down on us. But even so, there’s no denying how much of a force Adele truly is. And if nothing else, “Hello” reminds us all that she’s still — be it 19, 21, or 25 — an artist not to be fucked with. Thus, I’ll say it again: never dismiss Adele for anything. Ever. [7/10]
Brian Duricy: What do you get the pop star who has everything? After a summer spent applauding the mainstream rise of the Weeknd, the staying power of Taylor Swift that seems impossible to shake off (sorry), and Fetty Wap bringing left-field rap into the fore, we were reminded who the star of the 2010s truly is. It’s almost anachronistic to write critically about “Hello”, as it’s already graced the ears of nearly every music fan and then some only a few days after its release. it has all the hallmarks of a capital-a Anthem, with its ability to sustain its power at almost double the length of top 40 radio songs. Adele is back, and she’s poised to conquer this year and the next with the same ubiquity achieved by 21. [7/10]
John Garratt: It’s time let go of the idea that music videos can double as miniature dramas. Nothing is gained by watching someone mope around an empty house and make tea. It’s also time to start bringing back enunciation. [5/10]
Dustin Ragucos: “Hello” derives its energy from its relatable emotional content, showing that Adele really doesn’t need to hit her high notes to shock and awe. “Sorry”, in all its utterances, does not make her a broken record. It instead makes her human and steadfast in a conflict that breaks one to their core. There will be musicians that cover this who will throw in a part of themselves to strengthen the chorus. Adele has really made her mark again. [8/10]
Kevin Korber: Adele is on cruise control on “Hello”, which is a little disappointing. Everything there is to like about her is here, and the song ranks as one of her stronger ballads. Still, there’s a lingering feeling of familiarity that’s impossible to shake. Hopefully the album has a few songs that shake up an already well-executed formula. [5/10]
Steve Horowitz: Adele is back and has picked up right where she has left off. She may be calling “Hello” and saying “I’m sorry” but what I hear is “I’m back”. This should prove commercially and critically successful. That’s quite an accomplishment, but I wish she had been more adventurous. The black and white video adds a clichéd classic touch; however, it still works. [7/10]