Reminiscing on ‘When We Were Young’

Caleb Reeves and His Friend

In one of my recent writings, which you can find on our ArkaTech Website, I talked about my experience at the Arkansas State Fair and mentioned how I sang “When We Were Young” by Adele. This song, featured on Adele’s second studio album “25” and released on January 22 of 2015, features an emotional take on this idea of reminiscing about memories with someone beloved to you.

I have heard this song many times and have enjoyed it for a long time, but it has really hit me differently as of late and I wanted to try to describe how masterfully beautiful this composition is.

To establish context on what lens I am interpreting this song through, I was singing this song to an ex-best friend who I no longer have close contact with. It is truly hard to disconnect from someone after you’ve loved them so deeply and so hard, even if you know it is for the better. And with that context established, you can probably understand why this song does hit so deeply for me.

Musically, this song is classic. I do not think that a solid and minimal piano and strings ballad can ever truly be out of date or unlikeable. It is quite hard to mess up something as solid and simple as that type of music. When nailed perfectly, it’s very effective, and Adele knows how to do just that with her powerful yet beautiful vocals.

Lyrically, I adore this song completely because it accurately puts into words feelings that I couldn’t quite put into words myself. The whole piece is very centric on the romanticizing of memories and nostalgia with people you love & the relationships you share(or shared). You will begin to see that within further analysis.

Beginning with the first verse, “Everybody loves the things you do/From the way you talk to the way you move/Everybody here is watching you/’Cause you feel like home, you’re like a dream come true”

I don’t know if there is quite a better way to simply describe the experience of radically and fanatically loving somebody. Whenever I saw my ex-friend, I saw them as just this “it-person,” in a sense. He was everything I wanted to be, and I feel like he was just a person that could be universally adored. He was, in my eyes, truly an ideal.

Then, the whole idea of a person being home just destroys me emotionally because it’s such a specific feeling that is so rare and can’t be so easily achieved. My friend was truly a person who made others feel at home. I know that he made me feel at home when there were times I was completely out of my mind.

Then, we move on to the pre-chorus: “You look like a movie/You sound like a song/My God, this reminds me/Of when we were young”

I mean, wow… These lyrics are not anything super complex or incredibly verbose, but it is the beauty of the complexity that is found within the simplistic wording that wows me. There is so much implication behind the comparison of a person to a movie or a song.

I would like to think that this person is a “cult-classic,” in a sense. By comparing them to something as a movie or a song, they are something that is likely universally adored by many and it just adds to that quality of radically romanticizing experiences and relationships that I find myself so often doing.

I think that between the longing and romanticizing, there is also a beautiful desperation in these lyrics.

The latter half of the first verse says, “But if by chance you’re here alone/Can I have a moment before I go?/’Cause I’ve been by myself all night long/Hoping you’re someone I used to know”

And then we also see the second verse, “I was so scared to face my fears/Nobody told me that you’d be here/And I swear you’d moved overseas/That’s what you said when you left me”

It is so chilling to read and hear being sung. There is such a sense of longing but also fear as well. I love the messiness displayed in the emotions and the mix of both “I want you but I’m also afraid and want to stay away” is so accurate to real human emotion. I can say from first-hand experience, that it is nothing short of messy to miss somebody but also know you should not be around them.

I think that, for me, this song truly is just a longing cry for something that will be and never come, a longing cry for this person and for one moment to “photograph [them] in this light in case it is the last time.” It is a wish for closure and for a goodbye before all the change happens that, for me, never really got to come.

Pain does demand to be felt, but it is also a blessing to know and understand that there are ways to cope and ways to make tragedies a work of art. I do not think you ever stop missing or loving someone, but you just get used to it.

I will conclude with the beauty that is this bridge which is kind of the place where I’m in at the moment: “It’s hard to admit that everything just takes me back/To when you were there, to when you were there/And a part of me keeps holding on just in case it hasn’t gone/’Cause I still care, do you still care?”

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