Song Lyrics – Adele – Easy on me

Jack looks at the lyrics to the song Easy on me from Adele‘s most recent album and discusses the meaning and interesting vocabulary.

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Hello and welcome to Learn English Vocabulary. My name is Jack and I’m making this podcast for you to learn or revise English vocabulary. You can find a transcript of this podcast on LearnEnglishVocabulary.co.uk. There’s a page for this podcast with the transcript, an activity and a task for you to do in the comments section.

Today I’m making a podcast based on a suggestion based on a request by a user called Pinkan from Indonesia who asked for a podcast about the song easy on me.

This song is from Adele’s latest album 30. 30 was the biggest selling album in 2021 in the US just 3 days after being released. I read that her album actually sold more records than all the other records in the US top 40, that’s how popular it was. 

So like normal, when I make a podcast about a song, I’m going to go through the lyrics line by line and I will explain the interesting vocabulary as I go. I’ll also have a go at trying to explain what the song means. After the podcast, I recommend you go and listen to this song. I’ll embed the video for the song and add a vocabulary activity on the page for this podcast on Learn English Vocabulary.

So the song starts:

There ain’t no gold in this river

That I’ve been washin’ my hands in forever

This is an interesting beginning. The first line has the informal contraction ain’t. The phrase ain’t no is an informal way of saying is or are not any. It’s quite American sounding, you hear it in the song Ain’t no mountain high enough. I think it’s quite common in British English these days; I don’t think I would use it, but you do hear it. The next part makes me think of America, too. There ain’t no gold in this river. This makes me think about the prospectors who went searching for gold in America, in the gold rush. 

Perhaps Adele thinks of herself as a prospector who was looking for gold. Anyhow, she hasn’t found any. She sings there ain’t no gold in this river that I’ve been washing my hands in forever. I’m not sure if Adele is religious, but there’s an expression, to wash your hands of something that means to refuse to take or accept responsibility. The meaning comes from the story in the bible when Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who was overseeing the trial of Jesus, washed his hands to deny any responsibility for what happened to Jesus. Now it’s used when someone ignores something bad that’s happening. It’s quite a common expression and is in songs and stories so I think Adele probably meant that she’s been ignoring something bad, perhaps her partner’s problems, for a long time.

I’m not sure if that’s what she means, but let’s carry on now and see if it makes sense with the rest of the lyrics. 

In the next lines she sings:

I know there is hope in these waters

But I can’t bring myself to swim

The phrasal verb to bring oneself to do something is interesting. It means to force yourself and is usually used in a negative sense. We use it when we can’t force ourselves to do something; usually something that we think we should do. Something that would be a good idea, but for some reason, we can’t force ourselves to do it. 

So you might hear someone say: Oh, I know I should really throw this old jumper away but I can’t bring myself to actually throw it in the bin. I can’t bring myself to do something.

The next line is connected: 

I can’t bring myself to swim when I’m drowning in this silence.

Drowning means dying because you’re stuck underwater and you can’t breathe. It’s also quite commonly used figuratively to say that you have too much of something, perhaps work or jobs in the home that you feel out of control. I sometimes feel like I’m drowning in emails and messages at work. 

This first verse is quite depressing. The waters that Adele is using to talk about her hope;  about looking for gold, have now become hopeless. She sings that she knows there is hope but she can’t bring herself to swim when she’s drowning in silence. She knows she should swim; that’s why she said she can’t bring herself to swim, but she can’t because she is drowning in this silence. This is a bit confusing as she’s in water and not swimming so she’s going to drown in water because she’s figuratively drowning in silence.

Silence is normally a good thing. I live in a very noisy house so for me, silence is a rare treat. But if it’s silent because someone isn’t talking to you, that can be upsetting. Sometimes we talk about giving someone the silent treatment, when you refuse to talk to someone because you’re angry with them. Silence like this can be used as a weapon and it can be hurtful. 

Now we get the first chorus:

Baby, let me in

Go easy on me, baby

Go easy on me; to go easy on someone means to treat them in a gentle way. You can use it when you are playing a game for the first time against someone who is very good at the game. If you’re playing chess against someone who is a real master, you might ask them to go easy on you and not beat you too quickly. You also hear this expression used when talking about criminals and punishment. If a judge gives a criminal a light sentence, perhaps a short time in prison or just a fine for a serious crime, you could say that the judge went easy on the criminal. This is quite an informal or spoken bit of language so I don’t think you’ll see it in serious reports. So go easy on me can mean don’t judge me or don’t treat me too harshly. 

The chorus continues: 

I was still a child

Didn’t get the chance to

Feel the world around me

I had no time to choose

What I chose to do

So go easy on me

I didn’t get the chance to feel the world around me. The chance to do something is an opportunity to do something. It’s an occasion or time when something can be done. You can use this expression to say that something is possible. If you ever get the chance to visit London, then you should check out the museums. Or when you’re in London, you should check out the museums if you get the chance.

Adele sings she didn’t get the chance to feel the world around her and that she didn’t have time to choose what she chose to do. So she is asking to be judged gently or perhaps forgiven for doing something bad because she was too young or inexperienced. 

Baby, let me in

Go easy on me, baby

I was still a child

Didn’t get the chance to

Feel the world around me

I had no time to choose

What I chose to do

So go easy on me

The second verse starts with the same phrase as the first: there ain’t no, but this time adele sings there ain’t no room for things to change. Normally, when we use room as a noun, it means a place in a house. You have a bedroom and a bathroom. You can also use the word to mean space. If you are packing a bag, you might tell someone: I want to take my boots, but there’s not enough room in my bag. I might tell my kids: You can’t play football in the living room. There’s not enough room. In the song, Adele is using the word figuratively to say that she and her partner can’t change. Their ideas are so fixed that they can’t compromise. There is no room for change. 

In the next line she emphasises this. There ain’t no room for things to change when we are both so deeply stuck in our ways. To be stuck in your ways means to be inflexible, to not be able to change. It’s usually used to talk about old people who refuse to adapt and change. 

She sings:

You can’t deny how hard I have tried

I changed who I was to put you both first

OK. This changes the meaning a bit and I’m not sure who Adele is singing to. Adele has a son so I guess she’s still singing to her husband. The verb deny means to say that something is not true. This double negative type expression is quite common. You can’t deny that she’s worked hard. You can’t say that it’s not true. It’s got the same function as you must agree. You can’t deny how hard I’ve tried. 

She sings: I changed who I was to put you both first. She changed who she was, so she changed something about her life, to put you both first. If you put someone first, you think about their needs before your own. Parents often put the needs of their children first. They think their children are more important than they are. However, Adele put two people first; I guess this means her husband and her son. 

There’s another chorus and then the last verse. 

I had good intentions

And the highest hopes

But I know right now

That probably doesn’t even show

The noun intention comes from the verb to intend which means to plan or want to do. If you intend to buy a new car, then you have an intention to buy a new car. The verb intend is slightly formal and cold. Good intentions are positive plans or objectives. Objectives is probably better because you might do something with good intentions that doesn’t work out. So, if you buy someone flowers as a gift and it turns out they are allergic to them and get sick, you could say, I’m sorry, but I had good intentions – I didn’t want you to get sick.

I had good intentions and the highest hopes. If you have high hopes, you are confident that something good is going to happen. You can say we had high hopes of winning or I had really high hopes after my interview. In the song, Adele sings that she had the highest hopes. This means that she was really confident that things would work out, but sadly she sings that probably doesn’t even show. 

This is the last piece of language I want to look at from the song. It doesn’t even show. I think it doesn’t show is clear enough, but the use of even as an intensifier is less obvious. It’s normally a strong intensifier used to emphasise that something is surprising. You might say: everyone passed the test, even the kids that aren’t good at maths. When Adele sings that doesn’t even show, it means the same as that doesn’t show, but the even emphasises it to say that it’s somehow surprising. This is quite complicated. Let me give you a couple  more examples.

You didn’t talk to me … You didn’t even see me. I understand that you didn’t talk to me, but I was surprised that you didn’t see me.

You didn’t even say goodbye. I was surprised that you didn’t say goodbye. I thought it was a small thing and was surprised that you didn’t do it. 

OK – so that’s Easy on Me by Adele. I hope that you can go back and listen to the song again and understand it and enjoy it all the more. I will add the transcript of this podcast and a couple of learning activities on the page for this podcast on LearnEnglishVocabulay.co.uk.

I hope you have enjoyed this podcast. I do love reading your comments so please leave me a comment on the site or a rating or a review on Apple podcasts. I love to hear from you and any comments or suggestions you have. 

If there are any topics or songs or scenes from a film that you would like me to talk about or anything else you would like to hear, I would be delighted to make a podcast for you. So please visit LearnEnglishVocabulary.co.uk and say hello.

Thanks for listening.

Arrange the chorus

Drag the lines from the chorus into the correct order.

Fill in the gaps

Complete the lyrics with the words and phrases that Jack spoke about in the podcast.

Discuss

What do you think of the song?

Have you ever asked someone to go easy on you?

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8 Comments

  • Waverly
    Posted 29/01/2022 at 2:12 pm 1Likes

    Thanks a lot for the podcast and website. Actually I’m haven’t heard this song yet, but I listen it after the podcast. It brings me the familiar feeling back when I first hear ‘ someone like you’. In my memories.. I didn’t asked anyone to go easy on me since I’m rather an introvert and I don’t get in touch in many people in my life since I’m still in the middle school. (I haven’t work yet, I think I will need to interact with more people when I start working) Besides, when I playing chess with my sisters, I’m often the one who have a good intention to win the game. (Is it suitable for using ‘ have a good intention’ here? I hope it is. ) By the way, thanks for the podcast again and i wish to receive some correction of my words. I’m not an english native speaker ><. I think it's morning in UK now, so.. Good morning, sir.

    • Jack
      Posted 06/02/2022 at 4:33 pm 1Likes

      Hi Waverly
      Thanks for your comment. To have a good intention means to want something good to happen, usually, something for someone else. We often contrast it with the actual results of an action – we sometimes do bad things with good intentions.

  • Mina
    Posted 09/02/2022 at 5:44 pm 1Likes

    I like this song and I appreciate you for explaining the lyric.

    • Jack
      Posted 09/02/2022 at 11:12 pm 1Likes

      I’m happy you like it and I hope you enjoy it all the more now.

  • Hung Cao
    Posted 30/03/2022 at 4:47 pm 0Likes

    Hi Jack, Im a senior student in VietNam. Recently, im so stressful about needing a toeic degree to graduate. I know my ability in English and what things i’m not good. Listening is a nightmare with me, so i have to practice listening every my rest time under pressure. Im extremely glad cuz your podcast, it’s really show me comfortable topic. I love US UK music and when i hear it, omg that’s the things i want to hear. Please keep it up this topic and I can suggest you about Lady Gaga’s song if you do this topic. Thank you too much. It’s 11:46PM in VietNam and i’m writting this massage to show my thinking.

    • Rose Marie Romas
      Posted 06/06/2022 at 1:50 pm 0Likes

      Hi Jack , I really love your podcast it’s very interisting. You helped me a lot based on the vocabularies that you have given. Thank you for doing such a good topic , keep it up…

  • Diana
    Posted 10/05/2022 at 11:17 am 0Likes

    Hello, Jack. I like your podcast based on songs lyrics very much. I’d be very happy if you could do an episode about The Cranberries’ song “Zombie”

  • Olena
    Posted 12/06/2022 at 10:47 am 0Likes

    Hello Jack

    I’m a software engineer from Ukraine. Thank You for all Your podcasts. You do excellent content. It is interesting that while I listened to Adele’s songs so many times I never paid attention to her personality and only after I feel the sense of the song and other Adele lyrics becomes clearer …

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