Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
I am obsessed with the cultural ceremony around a new Adele album. We spend most of our lives being (or at least pretending to be) well-adjusted, even-keeled, and generally over most of our exes but the minute she drops a record folks are out in the streets gleefully rending their garments and sobbing. I would say it's Pavlovian but I feel like if Pavlov trained his dogs to burst into tears whenever they heard a soulful British woman sing, he'd have been reported to the authorities.
This reaction happens before we even hear a single note. Adele's like "Oy, I've been making some tunes, yeah? Whut dyou fink of me droppin' the album next week, bruv?" and people are like "I CAN'T WAIT TO SUFFER AN EMOTIONAL COLLAPSE WHILE LISTENING TO THE LITE RADIO STATION ON MY COMMUTE." Truly, this is the best, most deranged reality. Is everyone okay? (The answer, of course, is no.)
I had a business lunch the other day (at the extremely good new casual Italian restaurant Allora in Baltimore) and they were playing the new album and even though I couldn't even hear it clearly I still almost lost it. I'm sitting there shoveling carbonara into my face with both hands, talking about stocks and bonds or whatever it is people talk about at business meetings, and suddenly I had to take a minute by the parmesan cheese bin to compose myself as I got weepy about a relationship I was not involved in in any way.
30, the latest album, is phenomenal and shows off new sides of the singer--it's not all tears! My favorite song is "I Drink Wine" which I thought was going to be some kind of silly homage to getting tipsy at book club or something, but is actually a musical version of Adele's therapy session. It's so beautiful and catchy that you almost forget that you're listening to her bare her entire soul, flaws and all.
Which is how I have found myself on multiple occasions this weekend, driving down the road, belting the line "I hope I learn to get over myself!" at the top of my lungs. The thing about identifying with all the nostalgia and sadness in Adele's albums is that it's a slippery slope to also identifying with the parts of her that are like "Mate, I've lich'rally got to get myself together. I'm all sixes and sevens lately."
Now, I love me some therapy talk but it is an incredible self-own to be sitting behind the wheel of my car, stopped at a red light, screaming about my need to get over myself, oblivious to the other cars around me or the Uber passengers in my backseat. Do I need to get over myself? Probably. Will I? Whut dyou fink, bruv?
Get over myself? I simply can't imagine it. I have many goals in therapy but none of them are "get over myself." Now that Adele is doing it, I might think about it. But I wouldn't be on it.
At another point in "I Drink Wine" Adele (and I) sing "Why am I obsessing about the things I can't control?" Um, because that's my hobby. If I could bring "obsessing about things I can't control" to the 4-H tent at the state fair and set it up between the crocheted doilies and the very large pumpkins and try to compete for a Blue Ribbon in "obsessing about things one can't control" I absolutely would. I would turn this casual anxiety garden into a fully functional anxiety farm.
The most talked about line from "I Drink Wine" is another one that I fully belt without realizing what I'm doing and then feel very weirdies about. It goes: "Why am I seeking approval from people I don't even know?" Okay, Adele, we've gone to far with this one. This is one of those questions that could serve as an imposter test for me. Like if you ever get a call from someone claiming to be R. Eric Thomas and they ask "why I am seeking approval from people I don't even know" call the FBI. That person is not me and you need to have J. Edgar Hoover arrest them. Look, I still sing that line with gusto, but I have to say I do not appreciate Adele coming for my entire personality like that. If obsessing about things I can't control is my hobby, then seeking approval from people I don't even know is my job. And I am a professional, okay?
Anyway, congratulations to Adele on working through all these big emotions and turning them into some truly extraordinary art. And congratulations to me for performing an entire weekend's worth of car concerts that were completely devoid of both singing talent and self-awareness!
Where Are My Background Singers??
Thanksgiving at my house means making Ms. Patti Labelle's phenomenal mac and cheese. And the day after Thanksgiving at my house means starting the Christmas tradition by remembering the time that all of Washington DC failed Ms. Patti Labelle during an iconic performance of "This Christmas"
If you haven't seen it, or you haven't seen it this year, do yourself a favor and start your holiday season right:
Random Thing on the Internet
I can't get enough of Brene Brown's podcast "Unlocking Us". If you're a Ted Lasso fan you're definitely going to want to catch Brene's interview with Brett Goldstein (Roy Kent) at ACLFest. Today I listened to an older episode with Dr. Jason Karlawish about Alzheimer's and dementia--it's a heavy topic but I feel like I learned a lot both factually and empathetically, which made it a very worthwhile listen for me.
I hope I learn to get over myself!,
My new YA novel, Kings of B'more, a contemporary riff on Ferris Bueller's Day Off, is out everyone on May 31, 2022. Pre-order it here or from you favorite indie bookstore, or request it from your local library!