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Music Video Review: Adele – “Rolling In The Deep”

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Born in 1988 in the United Kingdom, Adele Laurie Blue Adkins–or simply Adele, her stage name–brought some new vigour to anglophone soul music worldwide. Also, her songs resulted in some pretty awesome clips, like “Rolling In The Deep.”  It’s long been written by William Congreve, and not Shakespeare, that “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned”. It’s with that in mind that we all should take a closer and more careful look at the videoclip.

She is an offspring of modern times–Internet, blogging, and social media–and a true Generation Y member. Her profissional career started as she attracted a lot of attention, including from XL Recordings, through her My Space profile. There, she published three demo songs by herself earlier on this last decade. She was then invited to record for the label, which also represents artists and bands like Radiohead, Beck, and The White Stripes.

With solid talent at her disposal, Adele won many awards in the United Kingdom and made an ultimate appearance on Saturday Night Live back in 2008. Since then, she reached to the American music market and public, making it overseas.

With a couple of albums that reflect her youth–they are titled 19 and 21, respectively, signaling her age at the time of each release–Adele sings for the heartbroken, the loved and the in-between alike. Despite singing soul music, she makes not gospel but secular and emotional songs.

Not too long ago, the video for the “Rolling In The Deep” track made its way from Adele’s official YouTube channel to my email inbox. After I watched it a couple of times, I decided I had one or two things I wanted to say about how an audiovisual text could be, at the same time, so bright and gloomy.

Every opening sequence in any fictional work is responsible for setting the general mood of the narrative. Our current pattern of videoclips–the type we like the most these days–tends to offer plots as a way of captivating more of the audience. That’s because we love fiction and stories and storytelling. A song is more interesting when it accompanies a story we can relate to.

“Rolling In The Deep’s” opening sequence brings the artist, all dressed up, to a barely illuminated room. This room has furniture all covered in plastic sheets for protection. The furniture is neither old, nor new, for it’s impossible to tell and hence irrelevant to the story. It gives the idea of either an unused or abandoned room, a idea which associates with Adele’s expression. She is sitting there all sad and gloomy almost in the dark.

In an alternate montage, a very slim figure in black is shown, standing still, holding a staff. This disquieting figure inhabits a room full of white dust, which might be taken for snow. It inhabits a cold place. The “cold storage” has a white baroque ceiling and black plastic sheets on the walls, which adds up to creating an atmosphere of abandonment. It resembles a work-ever-in-progress, a remodeling that has been given up: it remains dusty and nasty. It evokes loneliness as far as visual poetics are concerned. The cloaked figure might be loneliness itself as far as I am concerned. Thus, the mood is set in less than five seconds.

Along with that imagery, Adele starts singing that “there’s a fire in starting in my heart/Rreaching a fever pitch and it’s bringing me out the dark”. All that emotion is killing her from the inside as in an infection. The time has come to make amends or to unleash hell through her crystal clear voice. Oh, boy, and who can’t relate to the feeling, of having things left unsaid after a love affair turned bad?

One can’t help but wonder why the room remains unfinished and cold. The rooms are too classic and the architecture of the place too sober. Is it a place where parties are/were held? Or, a home being set up for someone, maybe for a couple? And what’s with the glasses filled with water–lots of them? All that goes with the idea of a party which was going to be held but has been cancelled at the last minute. This has happened much to our heroine’s dismay. Remember she all set to go out, makeup and all.

I’d go for the engagement party or a wedding party, since she states in the song that they “could have had it all.”  And who doesn’t want to have all the commitment ceremonies and rituals?  As the camera pans over the myriad of glasses, the water inside them bends to her voice and to the hand-claps and drums. It stresses the soul and R&B of her style of composition–more creative imagery and a very contagious rhythm, folks! It’s a testimony to earthshaking pain.

The figure cloaked in black, which might stand for loneliness or grief, dances in the cold, cold snow of the “cold storage room”. It blows white dust all over the place in a quite enthusiastic fashion. It also resembles another cloaked figure from our day by day stories, death as portrayed as a skeleton or a noble horseman.

All through that, Adele’s voice roars like the water at the end of a deep drop. The cloaked figure seems to be cheering or venting anger as Adele sings her conflicting emotions, both trapped by choice or lack thereof. It’s as if the figure dances inside her mind/heart or to honor her. Oh, let’s not forget that the lady herself is wearing black shades.

Around the middle of the clip, we see china being crashed against a panel by an invisible character or force. Along with the glasses filled with water, it makes the situation more uneasy. It’s too much china which can’t belong to one person only, which brings us back to the “party gone awry” hypothesis. Remember the glasses filled with water–the party would stand for happiness and fullfilment.  The sense of abandonment remains, for nobody cares for the broken china. Nobody cared for the half emptied glasses of water either.

At this very moment, Adele states she has no story to be told but she wants to share a story of despair of the one who broke her heart. That tale would be no different from what she has now. She has this storm bottled up in a half decorated empty estate she haunts. We are led to believe that the scenario embodies a bunch of aspects from her own emotional state: “Think of me in the depths of your despair / Making a home down there, as mine sure won’t be shared”.

She’s also very resentful and maybe even vengeful (“You’re gonna wish you never had met me”). And that’s what happens to us all when we are left alone by someone we loved deeply. There no wisdom in loneliness, only loneliness itself. Loneliness might be a black cloaked figure enjoying itself.

Adele is threatening and promising and even trying to move on (as in “Turn my sorrow into treasured gold”). On the way, she fires up a city of paper craft, with half shaped buildings and polygons, never to be finished: “Don’t underestimate the things that I will do”.

The clip is very redundant on the statements of the song. Love is pretty and wild, but love is also where loneliness preys. And it doesn’t matter how loud she sings or yells and longs for healing. The state is empty. No one is listening. And she’s stuck there for who knows how long.

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About João Barreto

  • Raymond Crosse

    I’m pretty sure those are shot glasses, with alcohol. I am also pretty sure that when you see the white powder, they are not referring to snow, blow maybe, but not snow. Probably references for reasons the relationship had not worked out.

  • Yeah, it might be so, I suppose. But since there was no specific reference to drug abuse on the song, I went for the most basic elements. Thanks for the comment, tho. Cya.

  • harmon jansen

    Wow. You got it down. I am living this lyric, and the emotion I have yet to find words for, let alone effectively communicate (rolling in the deep) are exacted by this delivery. Not one typically at a loss for words, but as I find myself at these depths of loneliness and despair, rejected (for whatever reason) by the partner you would never fail, you are vulnerable, unprotected, raw, exposed, abandoned, seething with a miserableness of being unvalidated by someone cavalier with your very soul.
    And that sorrow turning into treasured gold is the harvest of that emotional investment, a benchmark forever, a deeper knowledge of learning almost at a molecular level, a solid core of enlightenment to disallow any future infringements on your soul. An idelible golden security.

  • Tiago

    The clip really captures the imagination of those who are living the situation of being abandoned by someone who loves deeply. It was a wonderful analysis and really capturou o espírito do clipe.

  • Misty

    A+ Analysis.

  • Misty

    I agree that the images spring from and give expression to the depths of her experience. For me, the most haunting image is toward the end – the isolated whirling dervish of loneliness has stirred up all that white dust – all those tiny particles of crushed chalk or plaster or bones or dreams (the remains of the day) – and we see only the faintest implication of her form through the haze. That dark, cloaked, elegant, fierce warrior has cloaked herself again in the sea of tiny particles for the brief moment they are suspended midair. And that ephemeral sea engulfs her, embraces her, erases her. It’s ghostly. She makes herself into a ghost. She is conjuring a deep in which to roll.