Upon first glance, the new music video for Adele’s recent song “Oh My God” appears consistent with its name: irreverent or sacrilegious. What else could lyrics like “I am a grown woman and I do what I want to do” prescribe? A closer look, though, unearths themes and truths that are actually quite biblical and illustrate what happens in pursuit of misplaced desires.
The video, which according to Adele fans includes many nods to her divorce, begins with freshness and simplicity, a shot of a single apple placed neatly atop a wooden chair. It’s one of many biblical references, including the Garden of Eden, heaven and hell, and right and wrong, which is perhaps why the entire montage is in black and white.
It’s the fall of humanity in the garden that’s most thematically pronounced though — illustrated by the fruit, florals, and a serpent — and ties all the rest of it together. And whether the artist intended it, one particular line defines the biblical theme and trajectory of the whole song: “I’m still spinning out of control from the fall.”
Adele indeed takes us on a journey of The Fall. In the beginning — of the song, like the world — we find the main character knowing the difference between right and wrong and contemplating her course. Two Adeles sit in chairs opposite each other, seemingly performing a mental duel.
I know that it’s wrong
But I want to have fun …
Maybe, baby, I’m just losing my mind
‘Cause this is trouble, but it feels right
Teetering on the edge of Heaven and Hell
Is a battle that I cannot fight
As she shushes her moral compass and opts for “having fun” over “fighting the battle,” Adele’s surroundings become increasingly degenerate and out of control.
The chair formerly supporting the apple becomes a mess of knocked-over chairs with the fruit strewn about the floor. A woman in white peacefully lounging is replaced by a woman in black clinging sideways to furniture. A group of young people merrily sock-hopping is exchanged for a fierce rave. A couple crawls across a mattress toward each other and passionately intertwines, and a man in a skirt uses a can of gasoline to ignite a wooden chair.
If the innocence of the beginning is marked by sweet simplicity, the drift toward wrong is grotesque and destructive, characterized by contortion and debauchery.
In the end, all the other characters drift away, leaving only Adele sitting in a chair considering the apple in her fingertips. She defiantly drops it into her palm and lifts it to her mouth for a bite before the lights go down, leaving only her dark silhouette, and she walks away.
The end is almost boring. After the video spends almost four minutes descending into chaos, the moment of choice is anodyne. But isn’t that how these choices are? Isn’t that why degeneracy happens in the first place — a gradual slide toward darkness marked by small acts of evil that become easier and easier to justify and indulge?
The video so aptly captures how darkness creeps up on us and escalates, a fact we know both innately and biblically: At the start there’s the choice, the apple, and then the montage shows how things spiral if the subject eats it — but she eats it anyway. It’s a decision Eve made, a decision Adele made, and a choice every single person since the garden has made too. We truly are “still spinning out of control from The Fall.”
I know some people who think the video is satanic, and maybe they’re right; perhaps it glorifies choosing the wrong path too much. After all, it doesn’t show the subject’s consequences; what happens to Adele after she actively chooses a bite? But I think there’s more to it than that.
It reminds me of the verses in Romans 7 penned by the Apostle Paul about how we don’t do the good things we want to do and instead do the bad things we don’t want to do. In other words, we have good intentions and don’t want to sin but we do anyway.
The difference here, of course, is that Paul was a believer talking to other regenerate people and Adele isn’t. Nevertheless, any time we sin, we essentially have the same attitude as Adele, whether conscious or not: “I know that it’s wrong, but I want to have fun.”
It’s in that sense that “Oh My God” is biblical, not because Adele illumines a path that is holy or righteous but because she shows us how sin so often works.
Missing from the video is the final destination of sin, which is death, another truth we find throughout Romans.
But the video also lacks the hope of redemption, a reality that thankfully the montages of our own lives don’t have to lack. Here it is expressed yet again in Romans, related directly to Adam and Eve’s sin and the Fall of man: “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” — with the “one man’s obedience” referring to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the one hope for those who believe.
Unfortunately, that redemption doesn’t preclude us from sinning in this life, meaning even the regenerate will continue confronting the battle and feel the pull toward the “trouble” that “feels right.” But take this lesson, not from Adele’s choice but from the inescapable truth in her illustration: “There is a way that seems right … but its end is the way to death.”