Hello, it’s Adele. And she’s here to ruin your morning. The British singer’s new music video, which premiered late last night, opens with a sepia-toned shot of a dusty windowsill covered in mounds of dead flies. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’re watching a clip for a Nine Inch Nails track rather than the lead single from the long-awaited follow-up to the biggest-selling pop album of 2011 and 2012.
“Hello,” from Adele’s forthcoming 25, is a downer of barbituric proportions. Instead of making an ostentatious return akin to the soul-drenched blues-pop of the propulsive “Rolling in the Deep,” she shoots straight for the fleshy muscle that pounds in your chest with a pensive love ballad in the vein of tearjerker “Someone Like You.” Produced by Greg Kurstin, the song opens with Adele uttering the title, “Hello,” inescapably conjuring Lionel Richie’s 1984 hit of the same name, but by the time she harrowingly belts the hook, “Hello from the outside/At least I can I say that I’ve tried,” the single has already carved out its own real estate in the canon of pop power ballads. It’s presently #1 on iTunes and I haven’t even finished writing this paragraph.
Likewise, there are no blind girls or hideous clay busts in the video, directed by enfant terrible and Cannes Jury Prize winner Xavier Dolan (Mommy, Tom at the Farm). The camera racks focus from those dusty flies to an approaching car, whose driver has returned to the abandoned house where she lived with her lover (The Wire’s Tristan Wilds) to—what else?—dwell on her past mistakes and try to reach him by telephone. Shots of a flip phone and vine-covered payphone are, perhaps, too on the nose, but Dolan’s use of diegetic sound—from the steam rising from a tea kettle to conversations between the characters—and Adele’s commanding performance smartly render the clip worthy of repeat viewings.
Adele’s 25, the follow-up to 2011’s 21, is due November 20th.