The Story of... 'Someone Like You' by Adele

14 April 2021, 12:33

Adele's Someone Like You was a massive hit in 2011
Adele's Someone Like You was a massive hit in 2011. Picture: XL/Columbia

By Tom Eames

Adele's 'Someone Like You' is one of the most heartbreaking breakup love songs of all time.

Adele's moving ballad became an international success in 2011, and it's up there as one of the best (if a tad sad) love songs ever written and recorded.

But did you know about its fascinating backstory? Who was the song about? Who wrote it with her?

  1. Who wrote 'Someone Like You'?

    Adele wrote 'Someone Like You' with Adele
    Adele wrote 'Someone Like You' with Adele. Picture: Getty

    Adele co-wrote 'Someone Like You' with American singer-songwriter Dan Wilson, who was previously the frontman of the band Semisonic.

    The two sat around the piano for two days, and came up with various melodies and lyrics, but ultimately decided to keep the musical production simple.

    Adele facts: Singer's age, boyfriend, children and net worth revealed

    Wilson said: "We just wrote it on the piano and then we recorded it when it was written. It wasn't sort of like recording it and listening to it thinking 'where can we go next?' It was really old school.

    "We didn't try to make it open-ended so it could apply to 'anybody.' We tried to make it as personal as possible."

  2. Who is 'Someone Like You' written about?

    'Someone Like You' is about a boyfriend who broke up with Adele. The track sums up the now defunct relationship that the album 21 is all about.

    Lyrically, the song talks about the end of Adele's first "real relationship" with her long-time friend and lover, and shows her confronting his new marriage.

    Read more: Adele's 10 best songs so far, ranked

    She later said: "Well, I wrote that song because I was exhausted from being such a b***h, with 'Rolling in the Deep' or 'Rumour Has It'.

    "I was really emotionally drained from the way I was portraying him, because even though I'm very bitter and regret some parts of it, he's still the most important person that's ever been in my life, and 'Someone like You,' I had to write it to feel OK with myself and OK with the two years I spent with him. And when I did it, I felt so freed."

  3. What happened in the real-life relationship?

    Adele - Someone Like You
    Adele - Someone Like You. Picture: XL/Columbia

    Adele has said that she began writing the song on her acoustic guitar following the break-up of her 18-month relationship with the 30-year-old man she assumed she would marry.

    A few months after their split, he was engaged to someone else.

    Read more: The emotional day Adele went in disguise to surprise a group of Adele impersonators

    She explained: "We were so intense I thought we would get married. But that was something he never wanted. So when I found out he does want that with someone else, it was just the horrible-est feeling ever.

    "But after I wrote it, I felt more at peace. It set me free. I didn't think it would resonate with the world! I'm never gonna write a song like that again. I think that's the song I'll be known for."

  4. How did it perform in the charts?

    'Someone Like You' was a huge success, topping the charts in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK and the United States, as well as reaching the top ten in many other countries.

    By late 2015, it had sold over 1.5 million copies in the UK alone, making it the second best-selling single of the 2010s and the third-best-seller of the 21st century.

  5. Where was the video filmed?

    The music video was filmed in Paris, France, by English director Jake Nava.

    The video is in black and white and sees Adele walking along a road and singing the song alone. Eventually, she enters a building in which she sees her ex-lover. After seeing her, he walks away.

    It has received over 1 billion views on YouTube.

  6. It transformed her into an international superstar

    Her show-stopping performance of the song at the 2011 BRIT Awards helped send it to number one a week later.

    Read more: Watch when Adele performed stunning acoustic Smooth gig a week before superstardom

    With 'Rolling in the Deep' at four, and her first two albums at 4 and 1 respectively, Adele became the first living act to have two top five singles and top five albums in the same week since The Beatles back in 1964.

    It wasn't long before she went over to the States and became one of the biggest stars on the planet.

  7. Scientists have studied why it creates such emotional reactions

    A Wall Street Journal story revealed that musically, the reaction is due to small, unexpected changes in the melody.

    What they call "ornamental notes", appear all over the song, creating a melancholic tension.

    Tearjerking ballads often move from soft to loud and contain dramatic shifts at key moments. Here, this is when Adele's voice jumps an octave and becomes much louder in the chorus. Add the heartfelt lyrics, and we're done.