As with seemingly any popular song released in the 21st century, Adele‘s “Hello” is now the target of online allegations that it rips off an older song.
In this case, commenters are calling out lyrical similarities between Adele’s “Hello” lyrics and the lines from Tom Waits‘ 1973 classic “Martha” from his album Closing Time.
For comparison, here are the lyrics:
“Hello, hello there, is this Martha? This is old Tom Frost/ And I am calling long distance, don’t worry ’bout the cost/ ‘Cause it’s been 40 years or more, now Martha please recall/ Meet me out for coffee, where we’ll talk about it all.” –Tom Waits, “Martha”
“Hello, it’s me/ I was wondering if after all these years/ You’d like to meet, to go over everything.” –Adele, “Hello”
The perceived similarity is more in content and sentence construct than exact language. Additionally, defenders might correctly point out that the setup of a phone call to an old flame is hardly new in music, film or literature.
On the other hand, there’s some strong evidence to indicate Waits’ classic did influence Adele. Greg Kurstin — who produced and co-wrote “Hello” — told Entertainment Weekly that the gravel-voiced Waits was a conscious touchstone for the song.
“She didn’t want to just go through and write a pop song with any particular formula,” Kurstin told EW. “We talked about Tom Waits, and different storytellers like that. I think that was the idea, that we wanted to do something that was very honest about where she was at right now, and she wanted to do something that was real and believable.”
So there you go — Waits was an inspiration for the tune, but that hardly means “Hello” rips off the iconoclastic singer-actor.