You haven’t lived life if you can’t relate to a line on United Kingdom based Adele’s two highly regarded records, 19 and 21. The records are wonderfully crafted and brutally honest pop albums that have touched the lives of the 13 million people who have purchased them. In fact, Adele has had such a profound impact on the industry that her second single off 21, “Someone Like You” is the first vocal and piano only song in the history of the United States Billboard music charts to top The “Billboard Hot 100”. It remained number one for a total of five weeks and in an article posted by The Wall Street Journal, journalist Michaeleen Doucleff goes into scientific detail as to what makes “Someone Like You” by Adele create tearjerking reactions from the thousands of millions of listeners the song has reached.
In the article, Doucleff explains that John Sloboda, a British psychologist, performed experiments in which he asked listeners to identify certain sections of musical phrases that set off emotional responses. These participants chose 20 different sections, and 18 of them all contained a mechanic of music called an appoggiatura.
“An appoggiatura is a type of ornamental note that clashes with the melody just enough to create a dissonant sound. “This generates tension in the listener,” said Martin Guhn, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia who co-wrote a 2007 study on the subject. “When the notes return to the anticipated melody, the tension resolves, and it feels good.
Chills often descend on listeners at these moments of resolution. When several appoggiaturas occur next to each other in a melody, it generates a cycle of tension and release. This provokes an even stronger reaction, and that is when the tears start to flow.” – WSJ Article
The article goes on to state that “Someone Like You” is sprinkled with these types of musical accents, specifically in the chorus of the track, when the songstress unexpectedly switches the note being sung at the end of the first phrase of the section.
The breaks between melodic repetition during the verses and octave jumps during the songs duration also play into effect. When all of this is coupled with the listeners own relative experiences in relation to the song, it creates a powerful, tear jerking effect, and can even release the chemical dopamine in the brain!
This is some amazing stuff. To read the entire article, which goes into more specific detail and mentions Samuel Barber’s “Adagio For Strings” (one of our favorite classical tracks) please click here!
Adele is nominated for six Grammy’s at the 54th ceremony (airing tonight) and is expected to take home the bulk, if not all of them.