Inside Adele's Most Revealing Year Yet as She Bares Her Heart on 30

The release of Adele's years-in-the-making 30 has punctuated 2021 with a big broken-heart emoji—but the singer herself has already picked up the pieces.

By Natalie Finn Nov 20, 2021 11:00 AMTags

In case you hadn't been feeling enough feels in the deepest reaches of your heart lately...

Well, that's what 30 is here for.

Adele's years-in-the-making fourth studio album—like her previous releases, named after the age at which she started writing the songs—dropped Nov. 19 amid the excitement that lots of time and an in-depth interview with Oprah Winfrey can't help but whip up. And, happily, in her signature hurts-so-good fashion, it doesn't disappoint.

As expected, 30 is a melodic slow burn through the highs and lows the past few years have had to offer the now 33-year-old singer, who since we last heard from her in album form has weathered the end of a marriage and the simultaneous sadness and personal growth that entails, all while experiencing the joys and concerns of motherhood. In fact, her 9-year-old son Angelo's Dickensian lilt can be heard on "My Little Love," at first telling his mum that he feels "like you don't love me." 

Adele Through the Years

Which of course couldn't be further from the truth—"Why do you feel likе that? You know Mummy doesn't like anyone else like I like you, right?" she replies—but isn't that what children are there for, to endlessly delight and then devastate with their soul-piercing analysis, sometimes in the same breath?

"Mummy's been having a lot of big feelings recently," she tells her son. "Like how?" he asks. She replies, "Just like...I feel a bit confused."


"I don't know. And I feel like I don't really know what I'm doing."

"At all?"

Simon Emmett

Relatable fears aside, Adele knows exactly what she's doing with 30, a dozen tracks of pitch-perfect emotional upheaval, punctuated by moments like this one with Angelo that altogether have created her most vulnerable album to date in what has been her most revealing year yet.

And here we thought we were already pretty familiar with the inner recesses of her heart.

Adele and ex-husband Simon Konecki, Angelo's dad, just reached a divorce settlement in January, almost two years after a terse April 16, 2019, statement alerted the world to their separation after eight years together, a couple of them married. (It was Good Friday weekend by design, Adele thinking maybe it wouldn't make much noise. "F--king idiot," she maligned herself to Rolling Stone in hindsight for ever thinking such a thing.)

"They are committed to raising their son together lovingly," the statement read. "As always they ask for privacy. There will be no further comment."

Adele & Simon Konecki: Romance Rewind

Forgive those fans of 21 and 25 whose first thought was of the songs this level of sorrow might produce. They're only human. And it wasn't exactly farfetched to guess that she'd productively channel this heartbreak, having sung so movingly in the past about prior "rubbish" relationships.

Aware of such sentiments, she took their excitement "with a pinch of salt," she recalled to Rolling Stone, not blaming her audience for being anxious for new music as they approached the four-year mark since 25 had come out.

And true to form, the newly single Adele dug in, inevitably unearthing in her writing all sorts of thoughts and feelings she didn't even know she was having in the moment.

"I was so disappointed for my son, I was so disappointed in myself," she shared with Winfrey on CBS' Nov. 14 One Night With Adele special. "I thought I was going to be the one to stop doing those bloody patterns all the time." And afterward, "I spent a lot of time on my own, really sitting in my feelings and not keeping myself busy."

She crystallized the moment on the 30 track "Cry Your Heart Out," singing, "Please stop callin' me, it's exhausting, there's really nothin' left to say / I created this storm, it's only fair I have to sit in its rain."

Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions

It's a nod to the aftermath of her broken relationship, though romantic love lost is only a fraction of the story. She and Simon remain best friends, co-parents and neighbors, their divorce not the result of anything that would make a juicy tabloid headline.

"I didn't really know myself," Adele told Rolling Stone about what amounted to the final leg of her marriage. "I thought I did. I don't know if it was because of my Saturn return or if it was because I was well and truly sort of heading into my thirties, but I just didn't like who I was."

Asked if 30 was, in so many words, "a divorce album," she told Winfrey, "I think I'm divorcing myself on it."

She indicated as much when she announced 30's long-awaited release date last month. "I was certainly nowhere near where I'd hoped to be when I first started it nearly 3 years ago," she posted on social media. "Quite the opposite actually. I rely on routine and consistency to feel safe, I always have. And yet there I was knowingly–willingly even, throwing myself into a maze of absolute mess and inner turmoil!"

"I've learned a lot of blistering home truths about myself along the way," she continued. "I've shed many layers but also wrapped myself in new ones. Discovered genuinely useful and wholesome mentalities to lead with, and I feel like I've finally found my feeling again. I'd go as far as to say that I've never felt more peaceful in my life."

The Biggest Moments From Adele One Night Only

After spending the rest of 2019 writing and piecing herself back together—sound baths, hiking, travel to "anywhere where there's meant to be brilliant energy," she told Rolling Stone—Adele emerged from her cocoon last year refreshed in multiple senses of the word. She not only felt more in tune with herself but also was physically rejuvenated, having lost 100 pounds—a transformation that, because social media doesn't always applaud other people's happiness, didn't sit well with some. 

But what makes her feel healthier and more confident—"I used to cry but now I sweat," she quipped on Instagram in October 2019—is hardly for others to decide. "It was never about losing weight," Adele explained to Vogue. "I thought, if I can make my body physically strong, and I can feel that and see that, then maybe one day I can make my emotions and my mind physically strong."

And, hollered in the presence of British Vogue during a private stroll through New York's Cooper Hewitt design museum: "That whole thing of like, 'Gets Revenge Body'… Oh my god. Suck my dick!"

So don't worry, that signature ribald bluntness hasn't gone anywhere.

Adele also stopped drinking, she told Winfrey, after overdoing it a bit and realizing that the habit was preventing her from doing the work on herself she felt needed doing.

Instagram / Adele

And, as it's been hard to miss, she's now in a relationship with sports agent Rich Paul, whose clients include LeBron JamesTrae Young and Tristan Thompson—and whom she actually met for the first time some years ago at a mutual friend's birthday party.

After reconnecting this past spring, their public seriousness level has gone from Paul "hanging out" with an unnamed "major pop star," as was noted in a May 31 New Yorker profile about him, to cuddling courtside at the NBA Finals in July to Instagram officialdom in September to jetting to London together earlier this month.

"I didn't really tell many of my friends at the beginning because I wanted to keep it to myself," Adele told Rolling Stone. "None of them believed it!" (At least she had the paparazzi pictures and Deuxmoi sightings to prove it.)

All of this lust for life may not seem conducive to immersing one's self in 30's deep dive into more melancholic times. But as Adele has repeatedly shown (and which Taylor Swift certainly has reminded us lately) there's no need to be in a bad place to believably and truthfully sing about having been in that bad place.

The Biggest Moments From Adele One Night Only

As she wrote 30, "everything was happening in real time...while I was going through everything," she explained to Winfrey, who interviewed the 15-time Grammy winner in the rose garden of her own Montecito, Calif., estate (and then had dinner with the artist and Paul afterward). "But I don't think as a person I have what my singing has. There's something I'm pulling from somewhere else."

"I don't know how I access it," Adele admitted. "It's wild. 'Cause I don't think I'm that deep in real life." She laughed.

But whatever does come out of that unknowable place, she's happy to share it with anyone who wants to listen. "Music helped me in any situation," Adele said, "and I would like to do the same for people that feel so alone when they're feeling something, to be reminded they're not alone."

Here and there in the writing process she has a thought that she decides is too personal to put out there, but it's not all that hard for her to put herself out there because "nothing is as scary as what I've been through over the last two, three years behind closed doors."


In May, Adele's father, Mark Evans, whom she'd been estranged from for much of her life, died of cancer. After some soul-searching, she did choose to visit him before he passed, and he was the first person outside the studio to get a preview of 30. "I don't think I understood the true deepness of how I felt about my dad until we spoke," she told Rolling Stone. And after he died, "It was like I let out one wail and something left. I've felt so calm ever since then. It really did set little me free."

Not long after, she started seeing Paul.

She has also comfortably settled into her Los Angeles home, where she counts mother of two Nicole Richie and expectant mom Jennifer Lawrence as friends and neighbors.

Adele and Jennifer Lawrence Are BFFs

"They humanized me," Adele told Rolling Stone of her Southern California pals, "because I had avoided talking to anyone that was ever famous in any capacity, because I was like, 'Well, I'm not famous.' I'm very British like that."

"We never spoke about work, which was amazing," she shared, "because most of the time when I catch up with someone, they want to know all about my work, and I'm like, I don't want to talk about that. Can we talk about something else? I'm knackered."

And with the finished product of those three years of work finally out now after being delayed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Adele isn't rushing into anything—personally or professionally.

Cliff Lipson/CBS ©2021

With Paul, "she feels really comfortable around him and is in a good headspace right now," a source close to her shared with E! News in September. "She is all about having fun and being in good company and Rich definitely provides that.

Aside from her recent performance outside L.A.'s Griffith Observatory for CBS (and a small crowd that included Seth Rogen, Gayle King and Melissa McCarthy) and the An Audience With Adele concert special she taped at the London Palladium Nov. 6 (with Paul in attendance, as were Beyoncé, Idris Elba, Emma Watson and many more celebrity fans), she has a few concert events planned for 2022 but doesn't have a full-on tour in the works just yet.

"It's too unpredictable, with all the rules and stuff," she said. "I don't want anyone coming to my show scared. And I don't want to get COVID, either."

In the meantime, she enjoys relaxing in her adopted home base of L.A., where Angelo now attends school and Konecki lives across the street.

"I mean, I have to sort of gear myself up to be famous again," she told British Vogue, "which famously I don't really like being." But it'll be worth it for 30, an album she has said "deserves" to be out there, better later than never.

"I feel like this album is self-destruction," she described, "then self-reflection and then sort of self-redemption. But I feel ready."