Sunday, March 13, 2011

"Rolling In The Deep" - Adele Song Analysis

Here's an analysis of Adele's "Rolling In The Deep," a song which topped the charts not only in the US, but in countries around the world. The song is from her top selling album 21. As always, we'll look at the basic elements of the song; the song itself, the arrangement, the sound and performance.

The Song - "Rolling In The Deep" is pop music at it's most basic in that it uses a bare bones form used by countless hit records. The form is:

Verse, B Section, Chorus | Verse, B Section, Chorus | Bridge, Verse, Chorus, Chorus, Chorus

This means the form is:
A, B, C, A, B, C, D, A, C, C, C

What makes this song bare bones is that there are no song intros, interludes or outros. In fact, the song ends pretty abruptly.

The Arrangement - Once again, this is about as formulaic as you can get. That being said, take special note because it works!! It's a clinic on how to arrange a song without anything extra getting in the way.

The song begins with just the eighth note guitar and lead vocal, which is joined by the kick drum in the 2nd half of the verse. In the B section, simple piano triads, the bass, and rest of the drums enter. See the development?

In the chorus, an strumming acoustic guitar and piano eighth notes push the song along as well as the entrance from the background vocal answers.

In the second verse, the low piano octaves on the 'one and', then the background vocals enter in the 2nd  B section. See how the 2nd verse develops? In the second chorus the background vocals add a harmony to make that section different from the first.

The last verse and first out chorus breaks down to kick and fills (which seems to be happening in all the hits these days).

The arrangement elements look like this:

   * The Foundation - bass and drums

   * The Pad - there's not really a true pad, but in the B section, the piano playing whole note chords does it for a bit.

   * The Rhythm - the eighth note guitar in the verse, the strummed acoustic and eighth piano in the chorus

   * The Lead - the lead vocal

   * The Fills - the background vocals and occasional clean lead guitar

The Sound - Nothing special here. Like all Rick Rubin productions, this is not that far away from the sound of a demo. The vocal has a pretty good sound with a nicely shaped long reverb, but the eighth note guitar is so dry that it really does sound like it's played in someone's garage. The drums have a big natural ambience that works, but isn't particularly great sounding. The lead vocal is a little on the squashed side, and has a click at 21 seconds that I'm not sure is on the master or just this video.

The Performance - Nothing special here except for Adele's vocal, which is great, as it should be. All the parts of the song a very simple, but they're performed well.

Feel free to send you your suggestions for future song analysis.



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3 comments:

plasticsoul said...

Hi Bobby,

I was wondering if you noticed the backing vocals on this record, in specific the harmonies of each first harmony in the chorus.

Although someone explained to me that what the backing vocals sing is in line with a melodic minor scale over a Cm but it really sounds wrong to me.

Any thoughts?

Thanks in advance,

Paul de Visser
The Netherlands

btw.. got almost all of your books and I love 'm. Thanks for inspiring/teaching.

Rieux said...

Indeed--the background vocals do something pretty subtly funky in the first and fifth bars of every eight-bar chorus: the lower background line moves from a G to an A natural on "wish" (in "You're gonna wish you"), which sounds odd over a c-minor harmony. A natural is in the A melodic minor scale, but there's so much A flat pounded all over the song that A natural (and indeed the melodic minor scale; this song is pretty heavily in C aeolian) sounds really foreign.

And then, to add to the weirdness, the same background line goes to A flat instead of A natural the next three times—on "met," "gonna" and "in the." I'm puzzled why Adele and/or her arranger decided to do this, but given the number of times it repeats in the recording it's pretty clear it was intentional.

Meanwhile, there's a third background-vocal line that enters in the very last chorus—a male voice, or possibly Adele herself in a fairly low register. I can't tell what (s)he's singing, and that line is nowhere to be found in the "official" lyrics. How mysterious!

T Tailor said...

I just heard what you are describing and it brought me to tears because i always sensed something was there, i just had to centre in on what it was. It only took what 4 years? There seems to be 2 sorta bellows and the second one sounds like just a simple "yeah". mysterious is correct and amazing to say the least.

email me if you ever find out who that is

themainbreeze@gmail.com

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