The Meaning Behind the Heartbreaking Lyrics of Adele’s “Chasing Pavements”

For Adele, her 2008 debut, 19, followed a real-life storyline of the breakdown of her relationship and all its after-effects. Her debut single, “Chasing Pavements,” set the tone for 19, and its song-by-song unraveling of lost love, regret, and finding purpose again by the then 19-year-old.

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“It’s me being hopeful for a relationship that’s very much over,” said Adele of the song, “the sort of relationship you hate when you’re in it, but miss when you’re not.”

Writing at 6 A.M.

Also Adele’s first single to hit the charts, “Chasing Pavements” peaked at No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was initially written at 6 a.m. following an argument with her then-boyfriend at a London West End club, which led to her storming out and running down Oxford Street. “He didn’t chase after me,” said Adele. “So I was running, just looking at these big wide pavements stretching in front of me.” 

I’ve made up my mind
Don’t need to think it over
If I’m wrong, I am right
Don’t need to look no further
This ain’t lust
I know this is love, but

If I tell the world
I’ll never say enough
‘Cause it was not said to you
And that’s exactly what I need to do
If I end up with you

10 Songs in Five Weeks

Most of 19 moves through more heartbreaking tracks centered around the artist’s relationship at the time with an older man, and “Chasing Pavements,” co-written with Francis “Eg” White, was particularly about having her heart broken for the very first time in her life. “That song is about should I give up or should I just keep trying to run after you when there’s nothing there,” said Adele. “I was only with him for four months, but when I signed my record deal I had to write an album, as I hardly had any songs, so I wrote about him.”

She added, ”I couldn’t write songs for ages because I found it really hard writing songs for fun or writing them because someone had invested a lot of money and time in me. I just couldn’t do it. And then I met my ex-boyfriend and it was great, to begin with, and then it was really shitty… then I wrote about ten songs in about five weeks.”

Heartache = An Album

“I love him still,” said Adele, “and I got an album out of him. She added, “I used him more than he used me, and he loves it. It’s not bitter. He loves it when the song comes on the radio. He says, ‘It’s about me,’ and I’m like, ‘It’s a song about heartbreak, you fool!’”

Upon release of 19, her former ex-boyfriend demanded royalties from the songs on 19, since many were inspired by their breakup. “For about a week he was calling and was deadly serious about it,” said Adele. “Finally, I said, ‘Well, you made my life hell, so I lived it and now I deserve it.’ He really thought he’d had some input into the creative process by being a prick. I’ll give him this credit: he made me an adult and put me on the road that I’m traveling.”

Should I give up?
Or should I just keep chasing pavements?
Even if it leads nowhere
Or would it be a waste?
Even If I knew my place, should I leave it there?
Should I give up?
Or should I just keep chasing pavements?
Even if it leads nowhere

Adele’s First Grammy Awards

Adele picked up her first Grammy awards for 19 and “Chasing Pavements,” which she performed at the 51st Grammy Awards ceremony in 2009. Nominated for four awards that year, Adele won Best New Artist and also picked up Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “Chasing Pavements.”

Photo: Simon Emmett

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