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Adele - Rolling In The Deep

by Brianne Mueller


Love stinks…just ask Adele. The initial romantic hopefulness – the excitement of a new love, followed either by jealousy or doubt, and ultimately, disappointment.  Heartbreak is not easy, but at least we know we are not alone in our misery. Adele, age 23, seems to have already become a scholar on the topic and has a lot to share from her experiences. I was skeptical at first, I will admit. Critics as well as fans are calling her sophomore album, 21 (2010), one of the most memorable and influential albums of the year. After listening to all 17 tracks on the album, it’s hard to believe that such heartache, soul and wisdom is coming from this 20-something who was born and raised in South London. But it’s there – it’s genuine and, dare I say, familiar.

In keeping with Adele’s candid nature, the intimate music video matches the incredibly personal lyrics of her smash hit “Rolling in the Deep." Known for his inventiveness and attention to detail, visionary Sam Brown (who is also responsible for jaw-dropping video “On To The Next One” by Jay-Z) takes the reigns of this project and brings us on a journey into the mind of one heartbroken young woman. Brown turns this already gut-wrenching tune into a recognizable snapshot of human experience, one that gains its success through accessing the most vital human organ in life and love: the heart.

“Rolling in the Deep” is a painfully soulful tune above love and loss….well, mainly loss. The album is named (pragmatically and poetically) 21, as it was the age that Adele experienced this particular heartbreak. Similarly, her freshman album, 19 (2008), was about another heart-wrenching romance in her life. It’s no leap to say that each song has deep, personal significance to this young artist. It’s only appropriate that the music video would follow accordingly.

The video is set in a house that was clearly once very beautiful, but is no longer cared for and has since fallen apart. As the camera moves from room to room, we see the destruction unfold. Pieces of plaster, broken dishes and various pieces of what was once a home are strewn across the floor - a lovely yet sad visual affirmation of a failed romance. The house is nearly covered wall-to-wall in sheets of plastic.  Adele sits on a chair, surrounded by plastic covered furniture. Then, her powerful voice can be heard, almost echoing off the plaster walls. There's a fire starting in my heart / Reaching a fever pitch, and it's bringing me out the dark...

Brown uses specific content in the music video strategically and expertly. First, he uses the visuals to punctuate the bass in the song, which imitates a steady heartbeat throughout the song, a recurring theme in the lyrics themselves (You had my heart inside your hand / But you played it to the beat).  The water inside the glasses bump to the beat of the kick drum, the flicker of the lights under the staircase just above the drum kit. and, yes, the china being shattered at the foot of the stairs. They all enforce the heartbeat rhythm in the song itself, naturally making you feel more connected to the action on screen.  (Interestingly, the camera cuts to the drummer during lyrics that refer to Adele’s former lover. This visually alludes to him as the source of both the heartbeat and destruction. No wonder he’s hiding under those stairs…) Further driving home the point, a dancer dressed in black swings around a large sword in room filled with dust, adding to the mess, while a paper city is ignited by several live light bulbs.

All the while, Adele is content to stay in place, singing about her despair. The scars of your love, they leave me breathless / I can't help feeling / We could have had it all. With all this sadness around her, her presence within the house itself is more than mourning – it’s a form of self-punishment. And by staying in the house that love destroyed (as opposed to placing her outside of it), her presence is an admission of guilt. This puts a fresh and honest spin on the overdone boy-meets-girl-and-breaks-girl’s-heart scenario. Adele is certainly not the perpetrator, but she’s not exactly the victim either. After all, it takes two to tango.

If you look at each aspect of this music video closely, you will see a finely crafted piece of art. What is already an incredibly accessible song due to its content and nature is made into an authentic moving portrait of love gone awry. “Rolling in the Deep” tugs at your heartstrings in all the right places and reminds you of a time that perhaps you were in that metaphorical house, just like Adele.

The heart can forgive, but it never forgets as singer Adele and director Sam Brown illustrate, and lucky for us. Not only do we as viewers get a four-and-a-half minutes of premium music video entertainment, but we are reminded that we are not alone in the world of heartbreak.

Bri Mueller is a life-long music enthusiast with a recent passion for film. An aspiring music video director, she is a theatre arts major (Psychology minor) from Lawrence University, currently employed as a Marketing Coordinator. Bri enjoys gluten-free brownies, parenthetical phrases and rock 'n' roll. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Daniele Teodoro. Contact Bri at bri.mueller[at]