Adele recently shattered the most streamed song record on Spotify (24 million in one day), as well as the most first-day global streams of any song in the history of Amazon music. This was her first new release in the last five years and her song, "Easy On Me" is taking the world by storm.

What's behind the massive appeal of this song?

I believe there are two factors: her music, and her message.

The Music

Adele has four studio albums – each one named after her age at the time of recording – 19, 21, 25 and now 30. From a tender age she was in possession of a remarkably unusual vocal sense, honed through her love of her highly talented musical forbearers. In an audibly tangible way, Adele carries the musical DNA of several generations. "I taught myself how to sing by listening to Ella Fitzgerald for acrobatics and scales, Etta James for passion and Roberta Flack for control," she is quoted as saying in her bio for myplay.com.

In addition to the God-given gift of a great set of pipes and her fortuitous exposure to the masters that came before her, Adele's voice isn't auto-tuned. It's authentic, imperfect and real.

In addition to the God-given gift of a great set of pipes and her fortuitous exposure to the masters that came before her, Adele and her producers have chosen to swim against the currents of most modern pop music. As noted music theorist and YouTuber, Rick Beato, points out, her vocals are not auto-tuned (a technique that digitally guarantees perfect vocal pitch and intonation). Instead, imperfections are left in the recording which gives her a more relatable and more human sound. People are naturally drawn to this riskier, more authentic and more exposed style and feel closer to her as a result.

Finally, there’s the artistry of her arrangements. Her songs are perfect short constructions. She is able to create these Carole Kingesque mini ecosystems whose internal logic is flawless. Unlike much of the brash, effect-heavy and high-octane offerings we generally hear in the top ten lists, Adele’s music is deliberately pared down, unadorned (often just piano and voice) and acts like a shot of emotional epinephrine that goes straight to the heart.

The Message (and its connection to other forms of loss)

Adele often sings about the pain of lost love and her newest hit, “Easy On Me” is no exception. In it she sings to her nine-year-old son and attempts to explain the painful divorce that they have just gone through. Though there’s nothing unique about songs of heartache, yet somehow she is able to capture and express the sentiments in a way that deeply resonates with a huge number of people. She has tapped into the universality of loss and is sharing it on the world stage.

When experiencing profound loss, resist the voice that says, "Best to move on with your life and put this behind you." You need to process your grief, to own it.

When experiencing profound loss, resist the voice that says, "Best to move on with your life and put this behind you." You need to process your grief, to own it. That's part of the reason why most faith traditions encourage those who are grieving over the loss of a loved one to focus on what has been lost. The Jewish custom is to sit shiva – to observe a seven day period of mourning that is specifically designed to guide the mourner directly into (and then through) the pain. It specifically encourages the contemplation of the enormity of what has taken place.

According to psychologist David DeSteno, there are a host of benefits to doing just that: “While the funeral and mourning rituals of all religions can help with grief, there’s a particular brilliance in shiva. From a psychological standpoint, all its elements, down to covering mirrors and crouching on low stools, help a grieving mind. To see why is to understand how people move through grief.” (How God Works, P 170-171).

Dr. DeSteno points out that the “best to move on” desire, which may be a natural reaction to loss, is counterproductive, and that eulogizing the departed with others helps us successfully process through the potency of our sense of loss.

Divorce is akin to death. In this sense, we are all part of Adele’s massive, global shiva. We are the visitors in her digital living-room helping her to come to terms with a very painful episode in her life. In opening her heart, she is inviting us to connect to her, and to reflect on the powerful universal themes and profound beauty of her music.

To watch Dr. DeSteno talking about the psychological benefits of Shiva click here.

For more insights about music and spirituality check out the Secret Chord Podcast:

Apple Podcasts
SoundCloud
Spotify