Voice memos and the one that got away: The meaning behind every single song on Adele's 30.

The world has been waiting for this album for SIX WHOLE YEARS. 

And Adele's 30 has finally arrived. 

It's the singer's fourth record, her first since 2015, and it's a documentation of the major life changes she has undergone following her divorce from Simon Konecki, the father of her son Angelo.

The relief of knowing 30 is now out is immense, I'll be honest. Earlier this week, in a Sony Music Sydney office room with lush velvet couches and tables full of dragon fruit, I joined a group of media to listen to the album once through. It's hard to get a full picture from just one listen, but 30 immediately struck me as Adele's best album yet. This is the same woman who released 25. How could she possibly beat that?

But I think she has and finally, thank goodness, we can talk about it!

Watch: Highlights from Adele's first Instagram Live. Post continues below video.

30 is diverse in sound, even containing a number of certified bops. 'Easy On Me' is probably its weakest track, which is good news for anyone who listened to that single, thought 'meh, okay', and hasn't sought it out since. 

There are jazz and soul elements, inspired by Amy Winehouse, the idol Adele has spoken a lot about recently. Voice memos of her trying to explain her complicated heartbreak to Angelo on 'My Little Love' made even this not-maternal-at-all millennial teary. And of course, there are plenty of those huge, Adele notes we've all missed so much.

It's also diverse in subject. Yes, "it's about divorce, babe, divorce," as she told us. But it's also about her grappling with her own guilt, coming to terms with being alone, telling Angelo how much she loves him and feeling desire (and desired) again.

Let's run through it track-by-track:

'Strangers By Nature'.

This is a weird thing to explain, but I just feel this in my soul: 'Strangers By Nature' belongs in The Wizard of Oz.


The song begins with a dong, and continues with an ethereal, other-worldly sound that should definitely overlay Dorothy wandering down the yellow brick road.

It's also such a serve to start the album with lyrics about "taking flowers to the cemetery of my heart".

She wonders if she'll ever get to the point of 'nurturing what she's done', and ends with the words "alright, I'm ready", almost like she's telling listeners 'come on, I'm about to emotionally destroy you'.

'Easy On Me'.

In lead single 'Easy On Me', Adele sings about no longer finding value in the "river", which is a metaphor for her relationship. It's the only song on the album that is explicitly about her marriage, instead of everything that happened in its wake.

In the chorus, she sings to Angelo, or maybe Konecki, or herself, asking them to "go easy" on her.

In the second verse, she explains her decision: "You can't deny how hard I have tried / I changed who I was to put you both first / But now I give up." 

In her British Vogue interview, Adele said the divorce was ultimately about putting herself first.

"It just wasn't right for me anymore. I didn't want to end up like a lot of other people I knew. I wasn't miserable miserable, but I would have been miserable had I not put myself first."


'My Little Love'.

Grab tissues.

'My Little Love' is a heartbreaking letter to her nine-year-old son, apologising to him for changing his family when she separated from Konecki.

"When you lay on me, can you hear the way my heart breaks? / I wanted you to have everything I never had / I'm so sorry if what I've done makes you feel sad," she sings.

Throughout the song, voice memos of her talking to her son play. The bridge features Adele telling Angelo she still loves Konecki because he gave her him.

You'll already be crying by that point. Earlier in the song, the high-pitched innocent voice of a child saying "I feel like you don't like me" crushed me. 

The outro is a vulnerable voice memo featuring a hungover, crying Adele worrying about if she will ever stop feeling like this.

"I just feel really lonely, I feel a bit frightened that I might feel like this a lot."


'Cry Your Heart Out'.

An actual bop! 

Toe-tapping is not typically a response to an Adele song, but the drumbeat in this song is just, ugh! So good! It's ironic, considering the title, that this is the first in a three-song detour to the dancefloor.

Thematically, it's the perfect follow on from the voice memo at the end of 'My Little Love', with Adele singing about that same feeling.


"When I wake up, I'm afraid at the idea of facing the day / I would rather stay home on my own / drink it all away."

Timeline-wise, it seems like this song is from just after she separated from Konecki. In her recent Oprah interview, Adele said she's now given up alcohol, but "at first, I was probably keeping the alcohol industry alive".

'Oh My God'.

Another bop.

This sex-positive anthem about feeling yourself after divorce, but also feeling worried about that on account of being an extremely famous global superstar.

"I know that it's wrong, but I want to have fun," she sings, before the claps kick in for a really fun chorus.

You're going to want to be twerking in the club to this one, which is a WEIRD reaction to an Adele song, right?! 

"I'm a grown woman and I do what I want to do" is an ICONIC line.

'Can I Get It?'

Adele works with Swedish pop legends Max Martin and Shellback for this sultry hit, and their influence is everywhere.

It's a letter to someone she wants after divorce, complete with "mmm" moans in the chorus, whistles and horns.

Adele told Rolling Stone this song was about wanting to be in a real relationship rather than just casual sex, which she joked to be the only thing dating in Los Angeles was good for.

"I have promised I will love you till the end of time / Through it all, the good, the bad, the ugly and divine / I will be the melody, the rhythm and your rhyme / All I want is for you to be mine." 


'I Drink Wine'.

'I Drink Wine' was probably the track with the most internet hype pre-release, and I don't think it sounds anything like people imagined. It's a gospel-esque ballad, which is definitely coming to a piano lounge near you.

It's a self-aware take on how Adele couldn't let anyone in until she worked through her own sh*t.

"So I hope I learn to get over myself / Stop tryin' to be somebody else," she sings in the chorus.

"I took everything so personally at that period of time in my life, so the lyric 'I hope I learn to get over myself' is like [me saying] 'Once I've done that, then maybe I can let you love me,'" she told Rolling Stone.

During her interview with Oprah, Adele admitted she loved someone she dated after the divorce, but she "couldn't be consistent" with them.

"There was someone that I have loved – not been in love with, but been so fond of, and have been for years – but I was unable to pretend that I wasn’t in my own storm," she explained.

"I couldn't give myself properly. I couldn't be consistent, and neither could he. It wasn't right, leaving a marriage and then dating a year after. Even if you feel ready, it's a gaping, open wound whether you leave or you're left.

"So it was more that this person was asking for me to throw myself into it. And I couldn't because I was still recovering from the breakdown of my marriage."

She was linked to UK grime rapper Skepta in late 2019, about six months after her and Konecki's separation was announced publicly.

Skepta. Image: Getty.


The song ends with another voice memo of Adele talking about regrets.

"The only regret I have, I wish that it was just at a different time. A most turbulent period of my life, why would I put that on you?"

'All Night Parking'.

An interlude, breaking up the album into two distinct parts. 

This track samples piano from the legendary Erroll Garner, who died in 1977, as Adele sings about her surprise at feeling for someone new.

"I don't know how you got through to me / It's all happenin' so easily," she sings before saying the man reminds her of where she comes from.

This line suggests this song is also about Skepta, who is also from Tottenham just like she is.

She told Rolling Stone this song is about a relationship that ended up being "a great learning curve", even if "it was never going to work".

'Woman Like Me'.

If 'All Night Parking' is about the early stages of a new relationship, 'Woman Like Me' is about the end, when you realise it's not right for you.

It's as close to a 'Rolling In The Deep' kiss off as we get on this album, but less angry and more just... over it.

The lyrics feature the same 'hometown' shout out as the previous track, which points to Skepta again.

"We come from the same place, but you will never give it up / It's where they make you feel powerful, that's why you think I make you feel small / But that's your projection, it's not my rejection," she sings.


Adele alluded to this in her British Vogue interview:

"They'd find it stressful being out or seen with me, which meant that I guarded all of it beyond," she said of the men she dated. "It never evolved because we were never experiencing things together."

But ultimately, she is thankful for this relationship for teaching her she can love again post-divorce.

"But lovin' you was a breakthrough I saw what my heart can really do / Now some other man will get the love I have for you."

Adele is now happily dating sports agent Rich Paul, so she was right!

'Hold On'.

This is where we get to the truly traditional Adele ballads.

'Hold On' is like a letter to herself. She expresses frustration at herself for blowing up her life.

"I'm my own worst enemy / Right now I truly hate bein' me," she sings.

But the song builds into one of hope, complete with one of those huge Adele notes.

She battles with her feelings in the verses, and then the chorus repeats the words her friends kept reminding her: "hold on".

"My friends would tell me to hold on when I would feel like the lyrics in the verse. But it was just exhausting trying to keep going with it," Adele told Oprah in her Adele: One Night Only special.


"It's [dealing with] the process of a divorce. It's the process of becoming a single parent. The process of not seeing your child every single day. [That] wasn't really a plan that I had when I became a mum."

What makes this even more special is that Adele enlisted her mates to sing in the choir, credited as "Adele's crazy friends", which repeat the lines "just hold on, just hold on" throughout the song.

'To Be Loved'.

The vocal highlight, which is saying a lot because Adele's very existence is a vocal highlight.

This is another deep-cut where Adele feels forced to face herself and the consequences of her decisions.

"I built a house for a love to grow / I was so young that it was hard to know / I'm as lost now as I was back then," she sings, which seems to refer to her and Konecki having Angelo when she was only 23.

The pre-chorus and chorus are all about how she had to sacrifice her marriage to live her truth.

Adele has previously said the album tracks are also her demos, meaning she only records each song once in order to keep the raw emotion - and towards the end of 'To Be Loved', there is a very noticeable voice crack that will get you right in the gut.

'Love Is A Game'.

This track feels like a direct nod to Amy Winehouse - from the jazzy, retro sound, to the drawn out vocals to the title. Here, she explores the cruelty of love just as Winehouse did in 'Love Is A Losing Game' from her own breakup album, Back to Black.

In the end, Adele takes us full circle. She begins the album by taking flowers to the cemetery of her heart, and ends it by realising she'd do it all again.

"I can love, I can love again / I love me now, like I love him," she sings in the outro.

"I'm a fool for that / You know I, you know I'm gonna do it / Oh-oh, oh-oh / I'd do it all again like I did it."

And so, like that, an hour spent deep in the emotions of one of the world's finest comes to an end. In 30, Adele bares her soul more than ever before. Yes, it's a divorce album. But it's also about parenting, and self-discovery, and ultimately, acceptance.

She's back. And she's better than ever.

Chelsea McLaughlin is Mamamia's Senior Entertainment Writer. For more pop culture takes, sarcasm and... cat content, you can follow her on Instagram.

Feature image: Sony Music.

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