I may have loved this more for the small subtleties, and the things it didn't do, but overall it stands as a strong music video.
In a year full of just-hanging-out-with-the-artist videos Adele’s ‘Hello’ brings back the personal touch to the format. While not boasting million dollar spectacles such as Swift’s ‘Bad Blood’ or Macklemore’s ‘Downtown’, nor the depth and drama in videos such as Kendrick’s ‘Alright’ and The Weeknd’s last trilogy of debauchery – by dialling down to a basic emotional tale it manages to be a video that stands out amongst these glossier titles.
Flitting between signature-Adele-green tinted present, and black-and-white past, the video details her attempts to seek forgiveness for a relationship left behind in America, as well as the acceptance of her past, and preparing to return to the limelight.
The beginning is patient, a broken down home, unreturned phone calls, cleaning out the dust of an old life – Adele pauses a moment, collects herself, breathes, and then looks into the camera as the first piano chord strikes. An album cover image, graduating from eyes downcast in 21, to staring you down at 25. This introduction alone establishes its difference from other videos; whilst many are used as selling tools for the music ‘Hello’ presents what the artist hopes to convey through the song, as well as their personal development between this and their previous work. Director Xavier Dolan (Mommy) delivers this brilliantly, and with an appreciated subtlety.
Dolan uses silver nitrate style sheen, European widescreen aspect ratio, soft focus, and blooms, all with care to represent the classic nature of the story being told (love and forgiveness), alongside a Hollywood quality; acknowledging Adele’s massive success as a great change in her life, but not one that has silenced her personality. Similarly, dialogue and sound effects can be heard under the track, from phone tones to lines of arguments, which add a realism to the events playing out on screen. While artists write songs about real experiences and relationships, few take the courage to relive these origins through the music video, and it’s refreshing to see something that commits fully to the concept.
However there are faults with the video, and probably as minute as my praises. For example, the use of POV shots lower the overall effectiveness of the video. While their appearance is understandable due to the sequences being flashbacks, the technique is inherently uncinematic, which contradicts the basic aesthetics of the video. Secondly, they should have used a lesser known actor. Tristan Wilds may not exactly be A-List, but he’s recognisable enough for it to stop seeming like a collection of past experiences, and more a recreation for the camera.
It may not be recognised for many awards, and won’t be shared by millions for the videos sake alone, but this is one of the better music videos of the year, and has only grown my appreciation Adele and Xavier Dolan.
Watch the video for ‘Hello’, below.