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Weekly Listening: Adele, Justin Bieber, Hunting Wolves and Gwen Stefani

Wednesday 28th October 2015

A revolving cast of contributors showcase some of the best new music releases from the past week.


Adele – ‘Hello’

Starting with warm piano keys, ‘Hello’ opens with Adele casting nostalgic thoughts over the ghosts of past relationships. The song marks Adele’s resurfacing from a five-year musical hiatus and the track is taut with feeling and brimming with tear inducing emotion. Admonishing and questioning herself throughout, Adele’s voice is dreamy but full of power and resolve. Her vocals wrap themselves around simple words, bringing vivid imagery to the forefront of the almost five-minute long effort.

This piece expresses eloquently the desperation which forms out of pain, emotion, and distance. “Hello from the outside” is an explosive chorus, leading the music into pop anthem territory with backing vocals flourishing as the track progresses. The song is sparked by shifting relationship dynamics and losing touch, while emotions remain stationary.

Retaining her signature vocal styles and charm, ‘Hello’ is a not just a fantasy about making peace with the past, it’s a reintroduction to Adele and her breathtaking musical talent. Hello indeed. – Elizabeth Beattie

Justin Bieber – ‘Sorry’

2015 has been the year of a repentant Justin Bieber. He’s cried on stage at the MTV Awards, and put his heart on the line in an interview with Jimmy Fallon. Now, he says that he’s ‘Sorry’ in his third single of the year. And what better way to reinforce the sincerity of his message than by releasing it in the form of a pop banger?

Bieber teamed up with Skrillex once again to work on production duties and also brought in Canadian musician Blood Diamonds. ‘Sorry’ is a Caribbean-inflected house jam that ties in nicely with the sound of ‘Where Are U Now’ and ‘What Do You Mean?’ The ambiguity of who he is apologising to (his fans? His ex, Selena Gomez? His pet monkey?) was a considered choice, designed to stir up tabloid controversy, and it worked.

The music video was created entirely by New Zealand’s Parris Goebel, featuring her all-girl ReQuest dance crew, and was originally intended to be the lyric video. Camp Bieber loved it so much they decided to make it the official dance video. The colourful styling, the “Polyswagg” dancing and the pure delight of the women featured make it a joy to watch. – Ellen Falconer

Hunting Wolves – ‘Chump’

Fresh-faced Wellington quartet Hunting Wolves have uploaded their first single ‘Chump’ ahead of the release of their yet-to-be-titled EP. After playing a handful of shows in the North Island, the group have hit the studio and eagerly recorded their maiden release.

The backbone of ‘Chump’ lies in its fantastic bass lines that seep through the negative space and are complimented by Einziger-like riffin’. This previously dormant style of alternative-rock/funk rears its head as vocalist Tom Lister battles with self-doubt, pride and ultimately redemption.

An exciting move by an already tenacious band, their debut EP will be something to look out for. If ‘Chump’ is a peek at Hunting Wolves’ hand, I wouldn’t want to be betting against them. – Joshua Thomas

Gwen Stefani – ‘Used To Love You’

With a career defined, for better or worse, by a rocky personal life it is perhaps no surprise that Gwen Stefani’s most significant track in years would be a break-up song.

Unveiled amid reports that her divorce from Gavin Rossdale has already been settled, the track is free of ambiguity in terms of both subject and sentiment, and in contrast to the customarily bland joint statement released by the couple, ‘Used To Love You’ indicates a rather more tumultuous ending for the couple.

Yet rather than ghoulish voyeurism, Stefani’s love life has long inspired something more akin to collective empathy amongst her fans. ‘Used To Love You’ may be no ‘Don’t Speak’, but after 13 years of marriage and three children it is hard not to share in Gwen’s disappointment at the dissolution of her happy ending.

Not especially melodic but with a fairly quick bouncy tempo, Stefani thankfully abandons her previous flirtations with hip-hop and performs ‘Used To Love You’ as a poppy power ballad. Accompanied by a somewhat Lorde-esque video, the track is a sleeker production than we have seen from her in a long time, and it succeeds at being both melodramatic and poignant.

With Taylor Swift and Adele cornering the market on sad white girl oversharing, it feels as though Gwen has been all but forgotten by the pop industry she used to dominate. Though she has in fact been releasing some fairly forgettable material since last year, ‘Used to Love You’ represents a return to form and with her best work arguably born of her last breakup, she is wise to take her moment now. – Katie Parker

What's your song of the week? Tell us about it in the comments section.

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