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Behind the Meaning of “Chasing Pavements” by Adele

May 30, 2023
chasing pavements meaning

In the realm of music, certain songs possess the exceptional ability to resonate deeply with listeners, capturing the essence of shared human experiences.

Among these timeless compositions, “Chasing Pavements” stands out as a soul-stirring ballad that propelled Adele to international acclaim.

Released as the lead single from her debut album, 19, in 2008, this hauntingly beautiful track showcased Adele’s expressive vocals and remarkable songwriting prowess.

Beyond its melodic allure, “Chasing Pavements” carries a profound message that explores themes of love, heartbreak, and self-discovery, inviting us to embark on a journey of introspection and understanding.

While the title, “Chasing Pavements,” may initially evoke the image of a futile pursuit, the song’s deeper meaning reveals a quest for emotional resolution and closure.

The lyrics are raw and honest, exploring the complexities of romantic relationships and the challenges of communicating with a partner.

This article will delve deeper into the meaning behind the lyrics of this iconic song and explore its significance in Adele’s musical career.


The composition of “Chasing Pavements” is rooted in the genre of pop and soul, blending elements of contemporary pop with a hint of retro-soul influences.

Adele co-wrote the song with Eg White, known for his work with artists like Duffy and Will Young.

Together, they crafted a composition that beautifully complements the heartfelt lyrics and showcases Adele’s vocal prowess.

The song begins with a simple and delicate piano melody, setting a reflective and melancholy tone.

The piano serves as the primary instrument throughout the track, providing a somber backdrop for Adele’s expressive vocals.

The stripped-down arrangement allows Adele’s voice to shine, emphasizing the raw emotions conveyed in the lyrics.

As the song progresses, subtle layers of instrumentation are introduced, adding depth and texture to the composition.

Adding soft percussion, including gentle drum beats and cymbal crashes, adds a rhythmic element that enhances the song’s dynamics without overpowering Adele’s vocals.

One of the notable aspects of “Chasing Pavements” is its catchy and memorable chorus.

The melody builds up during the chorus, with Adele’s vocals soaring to higher registers, conveying a sense of yearning and desperation.

The chorus is pivotal in the song, creating a powerful and emotionally charged atmosphere.

Song Background

“Chasing Pavements” was inspired by a difficult period in Adele’s life when she was in a tumultuous relationship.

The phrase “chasing pavements” refers to her futile efforts to save the relationship and make it work.

In an interview with The Guardian, Adele said, “It’s me being hopeful for a relationship that’s very much over.

The sort of relationship you hate yourself for liking someone, and you’re trying to convince yourself that you shouldn’t.”

Adele initially wrote the song with a country music feel, but Eg White convinced her to make it more soulful.

The resulting song is a mix of genres, with pop, soul, and blues elements.

“Chasing Pavements” was written at 6 a.m, after a heated argument with her ex-boyfriend in London.

The confrontation led her to wander the streets of London late at night, which became the basis for the song’s reflective theme.

“He didn’t chase after me,” said Adele.

“I was running, and all I could see in front of me was a big, wide pavement.”

10 Songs in Five Weeks

Most of the songs on album 19 were more heartbreaking based on Adele’s relationship with an older man.

“Chasing Pavements,” written by Francis “Eg” White, is mainly about her heart breaking for the first time.

Adele said, “That song is about whether I should give up or keep trying to run after you even though there’s nothing there.”

“I was only with him for four months, but I had to write an album because I didn’t have many songs when I got a record deal, so I wrote about him.”

She also said, “I couldn’t write songs for a long time because it was hard for me to write songs for fun or because someone had invested a lot of money and time in me. I just couldn’t do it. Then I met my ex-boyfriend, and at first, it was great, but things got terrible. I wrote about ten songs in about five weeks.”


Adele said, “I still love him, and I got an album out of him.

“I used him more than he used me, and he loves it,” she said.

It doesn’t taste bad.

When the song comes on the radio, he loves it.

He says, “It’s about me,” but I tell him, “It’s about heartbreak, you idiot!”

When Adele released 19, her ex-boyfriend asked for royalties from the songs on the album since many were about how they broke up.

“He called for about a week and was very serious about it,” Adele said.

“Finally, I told him, ‘Well, you made my life hell, so I lived it, and now I deserve it.’

He thought that by being a j*rk, he had contributed to the creative process.

I’ll give him credit for this: he turned me into an adult and set me on the path I’m on now.”

Interpretation of “Chasing Pavements”

The term “chasing pavements” metaphorically represents Adele’s attempts to fix a broken relationship or make it work, even when the effort seems futile.

It implies running in circles, trying to find a way forward but ultimately feeling stuck.

The lyrics convey a mix of vulnerability, frustration, and resilience.

Adele sings about the realization that her love interest is not fully committed to the relationship and her struggle to accept the painful truth.

She questions their intentions and expresses her desire to confront them, even if it means risking further heartbreak.

The line “Should I give up or should I just keep chasing pavements?” reflects her internal conflict, wondering whether to persevere or let go.

Throughout the song, Adele exhibits a sense of self-reflection and growth.

She acknowledges her role in the relationship’s demise, admitting that she might have expected too much or rushed into it without fully understanding the consequences.

There is a sense of introspection and maturity as she recognizes the need for personal growth and learning from the experience.

The chorus of the song carries a powerful emotional weight.

Adele sings, “Should I give up or should I just keep chasing pavements?/Even if it leads nowhere?”

This reflects her willingness to take risks and confront the uncertainties of love, even if the outcome is uncertain.

It also highlights her determination to pursue happiness, even if it means facing disappointment.

Song Performance

“Chasing Pavements” achieved considerable chart success in multiple countries.

In the United Kingdom, it peaked at number two on the UK Singles Chart and spent 20 weeks within the top 40.

It also reached the top 10 in several European countries, including Ireland, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

The song’s success earned Adele significant recognition at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards in 2009.

“Chasing Pavements” won the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Grammy, marking Adele’s first Grammy win.

This accolade helped solidify her status as a talented and promising artist.

Cool Facts About “Chasing Pavements”

In October 2008, Adele sang “Chasing Pavements” on Saturday Night Live.

Sarah Palin, who was running for Vice President then, was on the show.

This gave the show a significant number boost and gave Adele a lot of exposure in the United States.

The term “Chasing Pavements” isn’t used often, and Adele used it to describe something pointless.

Some people in the US thought that the phrase meant “chasing gay men” and that the song was about being gay.

Adele talked about this at the Mercury Music Awards in London.

She said, “Some weirdo on the Internet said that ‘Chasing Pavements’ was about being gay, which is not true at all.

The guy put it on Urban Dictionary, which I’ve used for years, but “chasing pavements” had never been there before.

The song’s title, “Chasing Pavements,” is a British idiom that means “wasting time” or “going nowhere.”

The song has been covered by several artists, including Glee’s Lea Michele and American Idol winner Kris Allen.

You may also like: Best Female Singers of All Time

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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