In the newest song released from Adele's first new album in three years, the pop superstar once again invites listeners to retrace the steps of a doomed relationship. But this second walk down memory lane with Adele goes a step further than "Hello," inviting audiences not merely to cry but also to laugh again – and ultimately to heal.
Released on Tuesday, “When We Were Young” chronicles two people who suddenly find they are older. They end up at a house party, where they see everyone they’ve ever loved and never loved. In an interview with "Sirius XM Music," Adele described the scenario like this: “Where you can’t find the time to be in each other’s lives, and then you’re all thrown together at this party when you’re like 50. And does it matter? And you have so much fun, and you feel like you’re 15 again.”
Adele seeks to etch that moment in her mind forever. "Let me photograph you in this light in case it is the last time that we might be exactly like we were before we realized we were sad of getting old,” she croons longingly and lovingly. And in doing so, she instructs her listeners not to be weighed down by what happened in the past but to instead be reminded by that one picture-perfect memory of the love they had for life when they were young. It's the kind of healing therapy that only the best music can provide.
After falling in love with his song “Hollywood,” Adele traveled to Los Angeles, where she spent three days chatting and ultimately co-writing “When We Were Young” with up-and-coming musician Tobias Jesso, Jr. “His grandparents were friends with Philip Glass, and Tobias had inherited Philip Glass’s old piano. We wrote our song, 'When We Were Young,' on that piano. How cool is that?” Adele wrote in The Guardian about the writing process.
Adele describes Jesso’s music as “romantic, with a 70s vibe.” True to form, "When We Were Young" is a sultry disco ballad, which allows the timeless quality of Adele’s powerhouse voice to take center stage. The release of the first live performance of the song on YouTube on Tuesday proves that had Adele been born in the disco era, she would have easily found herself among the company of the great queen Donna Summer. And more of this sound may be in store: As Adele also told The Guardian, she plans to work with Jesso, whom she called “my new secret weapon,” again.
In the note Adele posted to social media announcing her first new music in three years, she described her upcoming album, "25," as “a make-up record.” "I haven’t got time to hold on to the crumbs of my past like I used to. What’s done is done,” she wrote.
Adele carried through that same theme in an interview with "60 Minutes Australia," which first previewed “When We Were Young” to the world. “For the first time in entire my life, I feel like I’m dealing with myself,” she boldly declares in the trailer, which also shows her returning to visit the London record store where she purchased music as a child. A literal walk down memory lane, “When We Were Young” perfectly falls in line with what is emerging as the uplifting theme of "25" – finding self-love – a notable departure from her previous record's despair.
Lead single “Hello” remains the No. 1 single in the U.S. for a third straight week on the Billboard Hot 100 as “25” is due to hit store shelves on Friday.