Written by Adele and Greg Kurstin, it started ‘Hello misery,’ until they revised it
Both haunting and triumphant, “Hello” is pure Adele, powerful and vulnerable at once. Unlike the season of sorrow she endured due to a “rubbish romance,” which inspired so many of her early songs, she said she mostly felt happy writing these songs for her album 25. For “Hello,” she channeled ghosts of the past, and with co-writer Greg Kurstin created a masterpiece.
“It was hard work to write these songs,” Adele said. “I felt a lot of pressure writing the songs for 25, and for a long time, I didn’t really find my voice. I don’t know if I even did find it, but the reception to ‘Hello’ showed me people loved it.”
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Moody, mysterious, and poignantly melodic, “Hello” was awarded the biggest songwriting award of the year, the 2019 Grammy for Best Song. Released in the Fall of 2018, its aching melodics and sorrowful lyrics instantly impacted the mood of that moment. “Hello” became an instant standard, which is rare in modern times.
Here is Adele’s answers backstage at the Grammys, and also those of Greg Kurstin, on the birth of this song, and what the meaning behind the lyrics “hello from the other side,” which seemed spooky, was all about.
ADELE: “Hello’ actually started with the lyric, ‘Hello misery.’ So you can imagine the mood I was in! [Laughs] I was f**ing miserable! But Greg Kurstin, who I wrote it with, said, ‘I’m not so sure about that line, hello misery, I think it’s a little weird.’ So we changed it to Hello, it’s me.
“The song began when Greg started playing moody chords. Cause that is all that anyone ever plays for me when we get into the studio. Cause that’s the kind of mood I’m in. We were just messing about, and the line Hello misery came out, and he called me on that immediately. He said, ‘Maybe you should try and meditate, or something,’ so I did. I tried to be all Zen. Then I came back, and we wrote the first two verses very quickly—which tends to be the case with my biggest songs.
“We had three different choruses for ‘Hello’ at first. We had one with a country vibe because I was inspired by country music. And we had the chorus you all know, which I was concerned about because it was quite high and I wasn’t sure I could replicate it. I was already booked to do a tour, and then I got pregnant so I was like, ‘Peace out.’ I knew I would have to hit that note every night. So we changed it a few times until we settled on that chorus.
“Hello from the other side, was the other side of being a grown-up, the other side of being with my friends and my ex-boyfriends. And also about death. Part of it was about my grandfather, who is a huge part of my life, though he has been gone 18 years. So it’s about the other side of just not knowing. I don’t know if I lost touch with my friends because of how famous I got, or just that I grew up.
GREG KURSTIN: “We were happy at the time, but I tend to go for moody chords, and Adele’s voice invokes so much emotion. That emotion, attached to the soaring Hello from the outside refrain, was so chilling that both songwriters recognized its power instantly.
“I started playing piano chords, and Adele sang different ideas until we landed on what became the verse. I improvised while she thought of ideas on the spot. I was trying to find a balance, and with the verse production being what it was, the chorus ended up quite uplifting.
“Adele sang the chorus out while we wrote it, as it is on the record. It was originally in F# minor but we took it down to F minor. I like the darker sound that it became after doing that.”
ADELE: “I had been gone so long. I had my baby and I raised him into the toddler years, and then I slowly edged my way back into work. I didn’t know if anyone would care.”
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