Adele writes the sort of lovelorn ballads that make you pine for the stranger you made eye contact with during your morning commute.
Last week, after a three year hiatus following the monumental success of “Skyfall,” an Oscar win, every Grammy in the world, marriage, pregnancy, she woke us all up with a rousing “Hello, it’s me…” that sent her popularity soaring into the stratosphere once again.
It’s no secret now that her “Hello” is the biggest song of 2015, becoming, just for starters, the song to rack up more than 100 million hits on You Tube in the shortest amount of time. 25, her latest album, is predicted to break just about every record she set with her 21, her sophomore effort. “Someone Like You” was the tearjerker everyone listened to and knew all the words to (whether they wanted it that way or not).
Of course, it is only natural that someone with Adele’s influence would inspire scores of covers from other musicians eager to provide their own spin on her inimitable melancholy. I have heard “Rumor Has It” remixed as a heavy metal power anthem. I have watched as people have taken up their guitars and belted out “One and Only,” and have smiled appreciatively through renditions of everything from “Hometown Glory to “Chasing Pavements.”
I even went to one of my mainstays, the sorely unappreciated Amanda Cole, and was once again impressed by her ability to bring out a new level of emotion to the aforementioned “Hello.” Still, few covers of “Hello” have prepared me for the freshly excavated pathos on exhibit in this interpretation by Jack Hawitt. Give it a listen below.
Hawitt makes the decision to lower the key by an octave. Whereas Adele’s intro carries traces of the inimitable prowess that turned “Set Fire to the Rain” into a roaring hit, Hawitt’s introduction is shaky, muddled with a quietly destructive pain reminiscent of Damian Rice. He guides us hypnotically into a rather deceptive refrain: There is no BOOM here, but plenty of strength in the understated way he, sounding as if on the verge of tears, glides over each note, softly relishing, examining their weight, delicately surveying them like a parent about to send his kids out into the world for the first time.
It takes impeccable technique to carry this song; this is predominantly because of the vocal gymnastics displayed post-second verse. But as true as this may be, there isn’t as much stock put into technique from the average listener: interpretation is. This is Hawitt’s rendition, not a shadow of its predecessor. By song’s end, we’re left with a moment that, suspended in the air, tells us all we need to know without posturing or frills. If Adele’s highly anticipated return gave us chills, Hawitt’s efforts underscore the definitively raw ache of being alone—and feeling alone—in a way that can only be recognized with an understanding nod of the head. Sometimes, that’s all that’s required.