Behind the Song Lyrics: “Rolling in the Deep,” Adele

In any conversation about the London-born singer/songwriter Adele, the song “Rolling in the Deep” inevitably arises as a point of discussion. The single is the lead and opening song off of her second studio album, 21, in 2010. “Rolling in the Deep” was also the song that solidified the artist’s rise to immense fame—it spent 65 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and later won a myriad of awards.

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The song possesses a slow, soulful build of Adele’s vocal prowess which is accompanied by heartwrenching lyrics. Adele wrote these lyrics with English songwriter and producer Paul Epworth, who Adele credits with pushing her on the track. “He brought a lot out of me,” Adele said of Epworth in 2011. “He brought my voice out as well—there’s notes that I hit in that song [‘Rolling in the Deep’] that I never even knew I could hit.”

The peak of Adele’s vocal performance arrives at the chorus: We could have had it all / Rolling in the deep / You had my heart inside of your hands / And you played it to the beat.

These lyrics stem from the emotions of a scorned lover, and more personally, are a result of one of Adele’s breakups. “It’s me saying, ‘Get the fuck out of my house instead of me begging him to come back,” Adele told Spin magazine.

“It’s my musical equivalent of saying things in the heat of the moment and word-vomiting,” she continued. “It was my reaction to being told my life was going to be lonely and boring and rubbish, and that I was a weak person if I didn’t stay in the relationship. I was very insulted, and wrote that as a sort of fuck you.”

As far as the famous song’s title, the literal meaning is more obvious than you might think. Adele informed Rolling Stone that the phrase is an “adaptation of a kind of slang, slur phrase in the UK called ‘roll deep,’ which means to have someone, always have someone that has your back, and you’re never on your own if you’re ever in trouble you’ve always got someone who’s going to come and help you fight it or whatever like that. And that’s how I felt in the relationship that the record’s about, especially ‘Rolling in the Deep.’ That’s how I felt, you know, I thought that’s what I was always going to have, and um, it ended up not being the case.”

Clearly, Adele’s talent for matching phrases and feelings is largely unparalleled in the music industry.

Watch Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” below.

Photo by Simon Emmett/Sony

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