Does Adele’s ‘Hello’ Borrow From an Old Tom Waits Song?
Adele's "Hello," the lead single from her first album since 2011, is breaking records (aaand hearts) left and right. But one segment of the listening population is less than sold, accusing the singer of swiping the song's concept from a 1973 ballad.
Twitter users are comparing "Hello" to gravel-voiced Tom Waits' "Martha," from his Closing Time album.
As any human with functional ears can probably tell you by now, Adele's hit opens with a greeting for an estranged loved one: "Hello, it's me / I was wondering if after all these years you'd like to meet / To go over everything / They say that time's supposed to heal you, but I ain't done much healing."
Waits' "Martha" also begins with an emotional call, to his former flame: "Hello, hello there, is this Martha? This is old Tom Frost / And I am calling long distance, don't worry 'bout the cost / 'Cause it's been forty years or more, now Martha please recall / Meet me out for coffee, where we'll talk about it all."
Music fans on Twitter saw a clear connection — and while some crabby tweets accused the British artist of theft, other simply saw it as a reference.
As Fuse points out, Adele's producer Greg Kurstin mentioned Waits when discussing the "Hello" in an EW interview. “[Adele] didn’t want to just go through and write a pop song with any particular formula,” he said. “We talked about Tom Waits, and different storytellers like that. I think that was the idea, that we wanted to do something that was very honest about where she was at right now, and she wanted to do something that was real and believable.”
Kurstin's comment certainly lends credence to fans' theory, as Waits' music was clearly floating around in their heads as they crafted the track — though the singer's extensive catalog has influenced countless artists, so it's not exactly proof either. And if Adele is a copycat by logic of the similar premise, she would also be lifting from other decades-old songs that involve maudlin phone calls, such as Todd Rundgren's "Hello It's Me" (released a year before Waits' song, in 1972), Jim Croce's devastating "Operator [That's Not the Way It Feels]" from 1975, Neil Diamond's "Hello Again" from 1980, and of course, Lionel Richie's "Hello" from 1983. Who's the original copycat?
Listen to the two songs before, and let us know if you think Waits deserves a song credit.
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