Music education always & always looking forward.

A Rolling Amen: Ascending Perfect Fourth Interval & Aeolian Mode in Adele's "Rolling in the Deep"


It was hard to go anywhere in 2011 and avoid this song. It's still hard to go many places and avoid this song completely. For my money, I like Adele more as a personality — I find her charming, hilariously blunt, and very down to earth — than a musician. She’s terrific, but she doesn’t always punch in my access codes. But who am I to deny her powerful pipes and the effect she has had upon possibly billions of fans? Among them, my mother?

And admittedly, this song is still a banger (the Pazz & Jop folks agreed). Adele is still a huge draw for students, and she was when this song and album came out, and I have a very strong feeling she will continue to be for some time. 

Intro: Just a decade into her career and already considered a UK icon on par with some of the most famous Western popular culture figures, Adele is a sales and awards juggernaut. She has won nine BRIT awards, 15 Grammy awards, and an Academy Award. "Rolling in the Deep" is considered her international commercial breakthrough, and what a breakthrough it was. The lead single from her sophomore album, this song was responsible for several of those awards. To this date, "Rolling" is one of only four songs to top the Billboard Year-End singles chart in addition to winning Song and Record of the Year Grammys. (The album it appears on, 21, also won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year and a BRIT Award for British Album of the Year.) "Rolling" topped the charts in 11 countries beside the US, from Brazil to South Korea, and topped the year-end singles charts in Belgium, Canada, Hungary, and the Netherlands, in addition to the US. It currently holds the place of the 35th top performing song in the history of the Billboard Singles Chart and this particular video has been streamed over a billion times. Adele has sold over 100 million albums worldwide.

Analysis: As the chorus of the song begins (at :58 in the video recording linked above), the words “we could’ve had it” travel up and down by way of a minor third interval. Before the arrival at “alll-llll”, Adele nearly belts out a perfect fourth, but instead intentionally includes a pitch scoop, moving up a major third between the words “it” and the start of “all”. This intentional scoop is a signature move of Adele’s, adding an ornamentation to the song that makes it increasingly notable.

Considerations for Teaching: This song contains no unsuitable language and is still ludicrously popular with young students. It is a totally safe listening example for class.

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