Adele is the music industry’s quintessential Queen of Heartbreak, with thanks to her efforts of providing emotional ballads and powerful anthems to the world’s brokenhearted. Her newly-released third album, 25, is sure to strike yet another personal chord with listeners, and this time around, she may as well be hailed as the Queen of the Quarter-Life Crisis.
Whereas her previous age-based albums, 19 and 21, were all about the ups and downs of love and relationships (with 21 being THE break-up soundtrack of our generation), 25 is more of a make-up album that goes beyond the realm of romance. In 25, Adele reflects back on the actions (and mistakes) made by her younger self and draws on the clarity gained and lessons learned from getting older.
Sound familiar? That’s because Adele has essentially created an album articulating the quarter-life crisis. This is a time well past your coming of age, right at that phase in the middle of your turbulent twenties when you’ve reached the crossroad between adolescent and adulthood, just before you hit that roadblock of a question, “What the hell am I doing with my life?”. Here, you find yourself ruminating over the things you did and the things you didn’t do, your wins and your screw ups, and your (dashed) hopes and dreams, soon realizing that you’re far off from where you envisioned yourself being right now back in your teens.
In chapter 25, Adele channels all of the thoughts and feelings of young adulthood into 11 songs that deal with themes of aging, uncertainty, restlessness, longing, regret, and forgiveness. Track by track, here are the lyrics that can be interpreted in relation to the quarter-life experience.
Hello, it’s me
I was wondering if after all these years
You’d like to meet, to go over everything
They say that time’s supposed to heal ya
But I ain’t done much healing
Even the closest of companions can drift apart during the passage of time and distance. Recalling fond memories of yesteryear can lead you to seeking reconciliation with an old but not forgotten friend, family member, or former flame. Though reaching out is intended to bridge a sense of disconnection, it can also be a reminder of what you’ve lost and what you’re missing…
Send My Love (To Your New Lover)
We gotta let go of all of our ghosts
We both know we ain’t kids no more
There’s the one that got away, and then there’s the one who just won’t go away… because deep down, as maddening as it is, you want them to stay, badly. Eventually, you decide that, in order to move on and move up, you have to let go and free yourself from the culprit… so they can go mess around with someone new.
I Miss You
No one has me like you do
In your heart I bring my soul
But be delicate with my ego
By your mid-twenties, you’re pretty much over and done with the drama-rama of dating. You want what you want with who you want, right now. So now, you think you’ve found the one who lights your fire and who can really be intimate with. But do they feel the same way? The drama never ends…
When We Were Young
We were sad of getting old
It made us restless
I’m so mad I’m getting old
It makes me reckless
Oh, the woes and frustrations of getting closer and closer to your grave. The prospect of getting older can afflict you with a range of emotions from sadness to madness (and if you’re one of the grateful ones, gladness). Knowing this is inevitable and unpreventable can make you feel compelled to think and live irrationally and/or impulsively. Bungee jumping tomorrow afternoon? Sure, why not!
I remember all of the things that I thought I wanted to be
So desperate to find a way out of my world and finally breathe
Right before my eyes I saw, my heart it came to life
This ain’t easy it’s not meant to be
Every story has it’s scars
When I was a young lass, I was always daydreaming of who I’d be when I finally “grew up”. Like, I’d be super successful and rich and famous and everyone who ignored me in high school would be begging for my friendship. Now that I’m at that age and have still yet to “grow up”, I often think about how much time we lose by trying to hurry up the experiences of our childhood and youth. We’re always wanting to be older, cooler, smarter, stronger, somewhere else, someone else… but we neglect to appreciate who we are in this moment.
Water Under The Bridge
What are you waiting for?
You never seem to make it through the door
And who are you hiding from?
It ain’t no life to live like you’re on the run
We’re always waiting for perfection, whether it comes in the form of a person or an opportunity. We’re so obsessed with attaining perfection that we block out any other possibilities that may seem lesser or distracting. This hesitancy towards the unknown is a hindrance to unlocking our potential. Oftentimes, it’s the unexpected that leads us to the greatest discoveries about who we are and who we’re meant to be. Instead of running away from detours, why not run towards them? Don’t wait around. Activate your potential now.
Everybody tells me it’s ’bout time that I moved on
And I need to learn to lighten up and learn how to be young…
I’m scared to death if I let you in that you’ll see I’m just a fake
“It’s over. Forget it. Move on. You’ll be okay.” These words, though spoken with genuinely encouraging intent, are easier said than done. Whether referring to the end of an era in terms of a relationship, a job, a passion, etc., having to charge forward and get past something that consumed you for a considerable amount of time and find the light at the end of a dark tunnel is a challenge. So you put on a brave face and tell everyone with as much courage as you can muster up, “I’m fine”. But you’re really not, and you hope to God that they can’t see the cracks in your facade and reveal you as a phoney.
Love In The Dark
I don’t want to carry on like everything is fine
The longer we ignore it all the more that we will fight
As Susan Jeffers once said, “feel the fear… and do it anyway”. In life, we try to avoid the hard conversations because they’re uncomfortable, awkward, and well… hard to deal with. Yes, confrontation is not easy (it never is), but soon enough, you come to realize that you have to let go of the things holding you back. Being honest and then accepting what comes next is a hell of a lot less stressful than pretending that everything is fine.
Million Years Ago
I know I’m not the only one
Who regrets the things they’ve done
Sometimes I just feel it’s only me
Who never became who they thought they’d be
I wish I could live a little more
Look up to the sky, not just the floor
I feel like my life is flashing by
And all I can do is watch and cry
I miss the air, I miss my friends
I miss my mother; I miss it when
Life was a party to be thrown
But that was a million years ago
It’s been stated that misery loves company. When life gets you down, it’s normal to feel as if you’re alone in your desolation, when in actuality, many others are also dealing with regret, failure, longing, sadness, loneliness, loss, and fear. There is great freedom to be found when you realize that nobody, just like you, knows what they’re doing nor has it all together.
All I Ask
It matters how this ends
‘Cause what if I never love again?
No one knows me like you do
And since you’re the only one that matters, tell me
Who do I run to?
What do you do when you have to say goodbye to the one person you want to share everything with? When there’s no chance of a future with them, the hopeless romantics want to do what they do in the movies – create one final lasting memory to depart on for good, one that will linger on in your wildest dreams (*cue Taylor Swift*).
I find it funny that you’re the only One
I never looked for
There is something in your loving
That tears down my walls
I wasn’t ready then; I’m ready now.
This final song is dedicated to the source of Adele’s happiness and wholeness – her son. It’s what we discover when we aren’t searching that bring us to our heart’s desire. In life, we ultimately strive for love, happiness, belonging, and home, whether found in a person, in our passion, in our purpose, or a mixture of these. When we find whatever our One is, we can be ready to be ourselves.
In “Million Years Ago”, Adele gives solid advice to the young and the restless: “To earn my stripes, I’d have to pay and bear my soul”. To become who you are, you have to navigate through life with vulnerability, self-awareness, and integrity in order to begin to outgrow the pain of growing older. Until then, Adele’s 25 is the necessary soundtrack to conundrum that is the quarter-life crisis.