Composed by Adele Adkins and Greg Kurstin, Hello displays a highly developed semiotic aesthetic, through which nuanced emotional messages are passed. This emotional subtext is sophisticated and signifies a departure from earlier conventions by the continued abstraction of its cultural references. Not only is the language of contemporary pop straying from earlier forms, it is establishing new lexicons of emotional signification, which draw on aural references interior to the genre to transmit and qualify emotional meaning. Attributes of this new language include: 1.The diminishing role of the V chord and conventional V-I cadence2.The weakening presence of Major Diatonic Tonality or Ionian mode3.The increased importance of tonic and subdominant relationships4.The increased use of modal inflection and secondary harmonic colourIn this paper, I will explore ways in which the harmonic and melodic language of Hello creates an emotive subtext, imbuing the vocal narrative with heightened feeling, enhancing the sense of intimacy between artist and listener and ultimately acting as a filter through which the educated listener interprets the song and gauges its authenticity. In the process, I will attempt to rationalize these semiotic aspects of the music in relationship to global pop’s evolving aesthetic.
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- Adele’s Hello: Harmonic Ambiguity & Modal Inflection in Contemporary Pop
Grant Davidson Ford