Many singer’s debut album’s are often their best because they had time to put the effort in before the record companies try and hurry them for a follow up. This applies especially if the songs are of lost love, broken romances or even a tribute to the dearly departed. Adele, always wanting to be in control, and quite rightly so, took her time with her second album, 21, which was all about an old romance and the hurt she felt and it proved more successful than anyone could have imagined with the phenomenal hits Rolling In The Deep, Set Fire To The Rain and Someone Like You. That said, it takes nothing away from her debut album, 19, which was full of the same sentiment and was also a chart topping album.
Adele was born Adele Laurie Blue Adkins in 1988 in Tottenham, north London and was brought up by her mother after her father walked out on her when she was two years old and she still has never forgiven him for that. When she was nine, the family moved to West Norwood in south London and one of her first songs she wrote, Hometown Glory, was about that new location.
Hometown Glory failed to chart first time around, so her record company, XL released, the track Chasing Pavements which, in January 2008, reached number two and spent 19 weeks on the chart. In America it peaked at number 21, but might have got higher if it had more airplay because according to the Daily Mail the single had been banned by several radio stations because it was perceived that the meaning of the title was referring to the singer chasing gay men. In 2009, Clayton Perry interviewed Adele and this is what she said it was really about, “I had a fight in a club once with the boy the album’s about, and then I ran off down the street. It was really late – it was six in the morning and I’d gone into this bar where my ex was drinking and punched him in the face.” She was then thrown out of the bar and began walking away alone. “There was no one chasing me,” she continued, “And I wasn’t chasing anyone, I was just running away. I remember saying to myself, ‘What you’re chasing is an empty pavement.’ It’s a metaphor. It’s impossible to chase a pavement but I was chasing that pavement.”
She began singing some words into her mobile phone and then arranged the song when she got home. “It’s me being hopeful for a relationship that’s very much over,” she reflected, “The sort of relationship you hate when you’re in it, but miss when you’re not.” The week the song entered the chart, Adele said in the Sun newspaper that it was about splitting up with her ex and having her heart broken for the first time. She added, “That song is about should I give up or should I just keep trying to run after you when there’s nothing there? I was only with him for four months but when I signed my record deal I had to write an album, and as I hardly had any songs, I wrote about him.”
What helped the song so quickly was, apart from the exposure on the Jonathan Ross show, the soap Hollyoaks aired it three times, firstly in a concluding scene of Hannah Ashworth’s anorexia, secondly in a beginning scene of Charlie
Dean’s custody battle and finally in a scene showing Dominic Reilly reflecting on Tina McQueen talking to him.
In the US, she won her first two Grammy’s where the song won her Best Pop Female Vocal and Best New Artist of 2008 too. Over there it has also sold 1.5m copies so far.
The accompanying video was directed by Mathew Cullen and, despite being shot in Los Angeles, it actually focuses on a car crash in a white Peugeot in London’s Hyde Park. It depicts two different points of view firstly of the real world in which the car’s occupants are lying motionless on the pavement after the accident, and the scene during the chorus has the camera above them looking down. Adele is seen in the first view, inside a car with a man. She sings before getting out of the car and walking past a group of people who are running towards the crash victims. She continues singing till the end and closes with the victims being taken away on stretchers. The other one is where the couple come to life and move as if standing up. The couple appear to re-enact their relationship from the start. They appear to be content again, but it is short-lived after he discovers that she had taken another lover. She writes something on a piece of paper and when the man reads it, he is angered, but forgives her and they begin rekindling the passion they had before the crash.
In 2009 the real ‘boyfriend’ demanded a slice of the royalties from 19 after learning several of the tracks were inspired by their break-up. Adele told The Sun newspaper, “For about a week he was calling and was deadly serious about it. 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 travelling.”