An Open Letter to Adele

by Mara

Disclaimer: I wrote this about a month ago, before I had seen the frighteningly accurate SNL sketch. (In fact, it premiered a few hours after I wrote this.) And yes, I know that Adele herself does not control how often her song is played. Have you ever noticed how perfectly your tongue fits into your cheek? 

Dear Adele,

I want to congratulate you on the success of your single “Someone Like You.” I am sure by now you know how popular it is, but I thought you might like to know that I heard it on the radio no less than six times yesterday. This is even more impressive considering you live and work in London and I live and work in New York City’s outer boroughs. You are an international success, and I believe it is well-deserved.

All this considered, I have one request: please move on. For your sake, for my sake, for the sake of women* everywhere, please move on with your life already.

You have managed to capture the feeling of utter hopelessness perfectly. It has been said, by the late Bleeding Gums Murphy, that “Jazz isn’t about making yourself feel better; it’s about making other people feel worse – and making a few bucks while you’re at it!” And you have done so. But there are songs that express sadness, and there are songs that drown you in it. I don’t know if I, or anyone else who has had their heart broken (i.e., almost everyone) can take it much longer.

I should mention that I have only recently heard of you. While my own musical taste is eclectic, it is not based on what I hear on the radio. This is not because I am too pretentious to listen to the radio, but because I do not actually own one. I’ve always been a few years off: I was the only twelve-year-old I knew who eschewed boy bands in favor of They Might Be Giants. I could blame it on my three older brothers, but I think the truth is that I was born forty years old. Ironically, I know a lot more about contemporary music now that I’m a little older (sixty-four, counting my age at birth) because I work with children and teenagers. One of my jobs is with a fantastic nonprofit program that works with at-risk youth to revitalize New York City public schools. It can be hard work, but nothing motivates teenagers more than music. The kind of music matters: it has to appeal to the students, and it needs to be upbeat.** Thus, we usually listen to R&B or top forty stations, and yesterday, your song was dominating both. Every time it played, I was reminded of my own misery, and worse, my own embarassingly desperate behavior after each and every break-up, going back to the time I was fifteen and dumped by the kid who played the little brother in Halloweentown.*** Eventually, every time I heard those four familiar piano chords, I would manually change the station.

I had to remind myself that things could be worse: your song has replaced Katy Perry’s “E.T.” as the standard song every top forty station is obliged to play every twenty minutes. You are clearly more talented than Katy Perry, whose lyrics are about as deep as a wading pool, and it is refreshing that you do not need to resort to autotune or pseudoscientific terminology**** or faux lesbianism***** to further your career. But I had to ask myself, what makes a young woman write such a mournful tune? I went home and looked up the story of the song, and was dismayed for a few reasons. First, you are younger than I am, and my knee-jerk response as a naturally maternal person is to be concerned when someone younger than I am experiences pain (I imagine this will become a problem as I grow older.) Second, your ex-boyfriend does not sound like a prize catch. In my experience, someone who jumps into a new relationship directly after a break-up is rarely stable, and he seems to have jumped into an engagement. That cannot be healthy. But neither can “turn[ing] up out of the blue, uninvited.” You’re a beautiful, young, talented, woman — and you’re also dominating the world with your music. You’re better than that.

A few years ago I was in a long-term relationship with my first love. I thought that we would be the one couple out of a million who “made it”: that is to say, met when they were young, dated through college, and subsequently got married. We were not, and we did not. I was devastated. But wondrously, when I think of him now, between the pleasant memories and the indignation, what I most feel is an overwhelming feeling of relief. I am glad every day that I did not marry him. You, too, will come to realize that your ex had faults and differences that would have ultimately made you incompatible. There is something beautiful and poetic in loss, but there is also something beautiful and powerful in moving on.

Adele, I promise, one day you will realize you don’t WANT to find someone like him.


Mara Wilson


*Actually, for the sake of anyone, regardless of gender.

**I learned this first-hand after attempting to build a set while someone put on The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. It’s a beautiful album, maybe even one of my favorites, but not something that gets you working. Crying into your pillow and hoping that someday Brian Wilson finds the prescription drug cocktail or behavior therapist that can help him recover, sure; working, no.

***Do you know who that is? Yeah, fortunately, no one else does, either.

****The word “natural” means everything that exists in the natural universe; nothing can be outside of it. Therefore, the term “supernatural [sic]” is a misnomer, and the description of extraterrestrials as “supernatural [sic]” is doubly incorrect. But I digress, and by now I am sure this is not very interesting to you. If it is, let me know, because then we could be friends.

*****Have you ever heard of Jill Sobule? She’s a terrific singer/songwriter who wrote a song titled “I Kissed A Girl” thirteen years before Katy Hudson decided she wanted to ditch her Christian rock roots, piss off her parents, and appeal to the lowest common denominator. It’s simple and heartfelt. She’s written a lot of other hilarious and beautiful songs. She’s a singer/songwriter to know.

******Apologies for the excessive footnotes. I blame compulsive adolescent re-readings of Good Omens.