Yes, it’s a piano ballad. What did you expect? Adele knows exactly who she is as an artist and has no need to chase trends, so it’s also a ballad that clocks in at an unfashionably long three minutes and 44 seconds. TikTok creators will probably gobble it up anyway. So will casual music fans who still buy one CD a year from the local supermarket.
And yet, Adele’s first new song in six years lives up to expectations because her ability to convey raw emotion through her voice and songwriting remains extraordinary. Even if you don’t know, as Adele revealed in a recent Vogue cover story, that she wrote ‘Easy on Me’ shortly after calling time on her marriage, you’ll feel her pain as she makes a plea for kindness and understanding. “Go easy on me, baby / I was still a child / Didn’t get the chance to feel the world around me,” she sings on the chorus. Because Adele has always seemed like an old soul, it’s easy to forget that she started a family while she was still in her early 20s and en route to becoming the best-selling female album artist of the 21st century.
Talking of soul: Adele’s voice has surely never sounded better. Compare ‘Easy on Me’ to ‘Hometown Glory’, the standout piano ballad from her 2008 debut album ’19’, and it’s clear Adele’s singing is only getting richer and more confident. She also sounds unmistakably and wonderfully like Adele. The effortlessly swooping way she delivers “I had good intentions and the highest hopes” on the bridge is going to troll karaoke singers for years. Nah, babes – you can try, but you won’t match it.
It’s also relatively restrained, in a way, and defined by a quiet confidence. Where Adele’s last lead single, 2015’s ‘Hello’, which was also produced and co-written by Greg Kurstin, gains more bells and whistles as it progresses, ‘Easy on Me’ is just voice and piano throughout. According to Vogue, her upcoming album ’30’ – due November 19 – contains some more experimental moments including a track that has “shades of Goldfrapp“.
For now, though, Adele has returned with a reassuring slice of classic Adele balladry. This song will chime with anyone going through a quarter-life crisis, a mid-life crisis, or just a crisis of a hangover. And if you look to Adele’s music to make you cry, you won’t be disappointed.