Last night, Adele won all six Grammys she was nominated for—including a win for what has become her iconic song, “Someone Like You,” which took home an award for best pop vocal performance. Last week, the Boston Globe suggested it deserved another award, “tearjerker of the year,” and enlisted some music professors to explain why it makes us cry.
One said that it’s heartbreaking because Adele insists, in the lyrics, that she’ll move on, but the music “circles around the same notes, never resolving, never finding peace.” Another said it has to do with layering “simple blues-folk melodies over a classical-style piano accompaniment.”
All of this was clearly too soft an explanation for the Wall Street Journal, which ran a similar piece over the weekend, drawing on the assistance not of music professors, but of neuroscientists and psychologists. One of these experts studied “the formula for a tearjerker” a few years ago, by picking a few musical excerpts “that reliably produce the chills,” playing those songs for people, and then measuring the heart rate, sweating, and goose bumps of his subjects as they listened. He and his team found that all such musical passages started soft and then became louder; featured the “abrupt entrance of a new ‘voice,’ either a new instrument or harmony”; typically “involved an expansion of the frequencies played”; and, finally, “contained unexpected deviations in the melody or the harmony.”
According to the piece, “Someone Like You” is “a textbook example.” You can read their breakdown, complete with audio clips, here. (Via The Awl.) You can listen to “Someone Like You” in its entirety below.
TODAY IN SLATE
Scalia’s Liberal Streak
The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.
Colorado Is Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters
There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?
The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”
The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B
Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey
No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.
The Other Huxtable Effect
Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.