Call Me Maybe ... an analysis

Song: Rolling in the Deep

Artist: Adele

Album: 21

Songwriter: Adele and Paul Epworth

Producer: Paul Epworth


Overview:

Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” stands out from the continuous onslaught of synthesizer driven pop music. Perhaps the song has gained as much love as it has because it brings the listener down to earth with its sincere sound.

If you haven't already heard the song, you can take a listen now:


Genre/Market:

An unusual mix of pop, soul and blues.


Concept:

Heartbroken Adele pours out her soul in a powerful narrative of a past lover that she feels took what they had for granted laden with colorful metaphor.


Rhythm/Groove:

Driving, one kick drum per quarter note, four on the floor, overlaid by eighth note accompaniment on either piano or guitar for almost the entire duration of the song (excluding only the bridge).


Hook:

  • Powerful, soul singing female voice.

  • Lush reverberated choral accompaniment.

  • Sporadic change of the manifestation of the rhythm throughout the song.


Arrangement:

Female lead vocals, drum kit with claps layered on top, acoustic guitar, piano, backing chorus and a noteworthy lack of string bass as the piano fills the role.


Lyric:

  • The verses use a loose adherence to rhyme scheme, focusing instead on the importance of the story being told.

  • The pre-chorus repeats one simple phrase with slight variation, effectively building tension to be resolved in the chorus.

  • The chorus is made powerful not only by the strong vocal performance, but by extending the words, they carry out and in their simplicity, really pierce.


Melody:

  • The verses stick with a basic minor pentatonic line, ending every phrase on the root, which rolls in a perfect, story telling manner.

  • The pre-chorus breaks the pattern, ending the first phrase on the third, and the last phrase alternating the fifth and seventh to make tension just before the chorus.

  • The chorus sits mostly on the root and seventh, a sweet balance of tension and resolve, and notably moves to the sixth at the end of each fourth phrase.


Harmony:

The verses stick with a minor tonality in a i-v-VII-v progression, lifting dramatically to a major sound in the pre-chorus (VI-VII-v-VI) lifting dramatically again to the chorus as the final chord in the pre-chorus changes from the VI to a dominant V. The chorus returns to the minor tonality with a i-VII-VI-VII progression, which in its simple step-descending/ascending motion creates this catchy feeling of constantly leaning to the next chord as the chorus pushes forward.


Structure:



Production:

The use of reverb in the coir while keeping Adele crisp is really effective. The “raw” sound produced by using strictly acoustic instruments really brings the blues out of this song.


Performance:

Everything about this song seems natural. Granted, this is probably the product of clever producing, but that doesn’t matter to the consumer. Adele’s soul singing combined with drums, guitar and piano all performed with a clearly human grit really make this song feel personal.




Chase Watkins

chase@chasewatkins.com