Adele ‘Chasing Pavements’

A recent comment on the blog got me thinking. The comment was downplaying the songwriter’s lyrics, mentioning they sounded as if they were written by a 17 year-old, because, well, they sort of were. So I thought, why not go ahead and highlight some songs by the under-20 set, and focus on one in particular: Adele’s ‘Chasing Pavements.’

Song Start:  The song was inspired by a bar room encounter Adele had with her then boyfriend.  She had found out he cheated on her, so she made her way to the pub, located him in the place, and promptly punched him in the face. Go Adele!

She was thrown out, and as she was making her way back to her flat thought to herself: “what are you chasing? Well, I’m just chasing an empty pavement.” Bam! A metaphor! She sang it into her mobile phone, and added some chords once she got home. That is how songs are created!

This song and several other hits are proof you can be a 17 year old and write a song that transcends your own life experience, and speaks to many. Janis Ian’s “Society’s Child” for example: she was 13 when she was inspired to write it. Adele was 19 when she wrote the song, and while the melody and her vocal phrasing certainly adds to the power of the song, we’ll stick to the lyrics and her silver bullet device for not sounding 19.

Adele’s Chasing Pavements

The verses seem honest and are true regardless of your age.

Paul Simon once said in an interview “It’s good to start with something that’s true.”

All eleven of these lines ring true for the listener and speaker/singer. She’s resolved herself to loving this person, and realizes the fair thing to do is to tell them. However, in the eleventh line (which seems unresolved since it has no partnered pair), the word “If” creeps in – “If I’m in love with you.”

Hmmm . . . not so confident now.

The whole chorus is a question – not for the listener, but the speaker.

This song transcends the age of the writer because the language is simple but rhythmic, the words aren’t trendy (so timeless), and the song revolves around a question rather than delivering a great insight.

I have to admit, this is one of my favorite songs. The vocals are no doubt phenomenal, but the songwriting is very strong. As you start peeling the layers you can see elements of the craft which are often left unattended.

This one is worth studying if you are interested in writing pop or jazz songs with a good vibe and strong overall lyrical presentation of an idea.

A good trick is to include punctuation when you’re transposing or writing. It’s amazing what a single punctuation mark can tell you!

Adele Chasing Pavements

I’ve made up my mind, / don’t need to think it over.
If I’m wrong I am right, / don’t need to look no further.
This ain’t lust – / this is love. But –

If I tell the world, / I’ll never say enough,
‘Cause it was not said to you, / and that’s exactly what I need to do,
If I’m in love with you.

Should I give up, / or should I just keep chasing pavements
Even if it leads nowhere?
Or would it be a waste, / even if I knew my place,
Should I leave it there?
Should I give up, / or should I just keep chasing pavements
Even if it leads nowhere?

Songwriters: Adele & EG White

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