When I first heard this song, I had immediate feelings about what it was about.
It was that iconic part of the chorus — “Hello from the other side.” To me, the other side means the afterlife, so I thought of the entire song as sung by a ghost who has been unsuccessful in contacting a former lover who is still alive. The one that got away, sort of thing. She asks if they ever moved away from that small town because she’s been out of touch with them for such a long time, and maybe she’s been trying to reconnect since before the time of her death. Whatever caused them to part ways it was probably something she did and now deeply regrets, and that’s why she’s still hanging on trying to send messages.
The faded, sepia aesthetic of the music video gives the song an extra level of ghostliness. It starts with Adele saying “I just got here and I’m losing signal already,” as though she’s just passed on and hasn’t figured it out yet, doesn’t know why she can’t send any messages out all of the sudden. Everything she sings seems addressed to a past lover because of the flashbacks to a guy who obviously used to be an important part of her life, showing scenes of their relationship as it gradually crumbled. Her attempts to communicate with him become increasingly desperate throughout the song, and even in the flashbacks he increasingly seems to be giving up on connecting with her. He’s letting go and moving on. And why not? He’s still got a life he can turn to and continue living. She doesn’t, and it’s breaking her heart that he can let go when she can’t. Maybe she’s just fully realizing that she’s still in love with him. Maybe he would feel the same if she could just get him on the phone, but she’ll never know because he “never seem[s] to be home” when she calls.
That all seems epic and sad and very Sixth Sense to me, in an “I want to read and/or write this story” way. I live for song prompts like that. Unfortunately, according to Adele that’s what she meant it to be.
Adele said it’s about “reconnecting.”
“‘Hello’ is just about reconnecting with everyone else and myself,” said the 27-year-old singer to Lauer. “From the other side, I couldn’t get over my guilt of leaving my kid to go and write a record and stuff like that. So getting over that — getting on the other side of that. It was just, you know; it’s, in general, just hello to everyone.” (x)
If this is speaking to Adele’s past self, that admittedly makes the line “I’ve forgotten how it felt before the world fell at our feet” make more sense. It just doesn’t really explain the flashbacks and plus, it’s just not as epic!