Deconstructing Adele's Sanity-Preserving Video for "Someone Like You"
When the camera returns to Adele, she is crossing the Pont Alexandre III, a landmark that most natives and visitors can identify as a romantic hot spot, a place where kisses and vows are frequently exchanged. In the distance we see more Paris landmarks: another of the Pont Alexandre III socles, this one topped by Renommée de la Guerre; the double-shelled dome of the Hotel National des Invalides. Adele pauses on the bridge, stares eastward, the wind playing with her hair, her dignified expression evoking the figureheads found on the prows of galleons. She returns to walking, and right before the second chorus, gives the camera her most fixed stare yet, her face a mask of indignation conflated with heartbreak. Then, what may be the video's apex: Adele delivering the line "I remember you said, 'Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead'" with raised eyebrows and a slight, sarcastic twist of the mouth. It's the closest she comes to expressing open contempt for the individual she once loved.
I'll be honest: As arresting as the video is, what essentially gave it such eternal power over me was a seemingly throwaway moment from the MTV Video Music Awards a month ago. After a particularly heart-wrenching performance of "Someone Like You" (including the iconic snapshot of Adele standing regally before a microphone, her pianist hunched over his instrument, the spotlight behind them casting long, boxy shadows like something from a Herman Leonard photograph), there's a glimpse of Adele during Beyonce's performance of "Love on Top," singing along to the tune's chorus, all bouncy and smiley.
It's when you recognize the power and purity of Adele's art. That she does not take herself seriously, but does take the emotions she must articulate seriously. That her dolefulness has not reduced her to a caricature; that she's held onto grief, but also made room for other feelings. That life's obstacles are simply stepping stones that will help you arrive at your destination of choice. As I walk -- not run -- toward life's finish line, it's a lesson I won't soon forget.