Adele's Songs And The Science Behind Why They Make You Cry [UPDATED]
If you've ever gotten emotional while listening to Adele, you're not the only one.
Turns out there are scientific reasons why tunes such the Grammy award-winner's "Someone Like You" make listeners reach for the tissues.
For starters, the ballad contains an "appoggiatura," which is "a type of ornamental note that clashes with the melody just enough to create a dissonant sound," the Wall Street Journal describes.
In Adele's song, the dip occurs on the word "you" during the opening to the chorus, where the singer croons the following lyrics: "Nevermind, I'll find someone like you."
Appoggiaturas were found in a majority of tunes listeners said give them goosebumps or make them cry, according to a 20-year-old study conducted by psychologist John Sloboda, the paper wrote.
The song also shifts in "volume, timbre, and harmonic pattern," which also contribute to creating a physical response:
When the music suddenly breaks from its expected pattern, our sympathetic nervous system goes on high alert; our hearts race and we start to sweat. Depending on the context, we interpret this state of arousal as positive or negative, happy or sad.
Although the song's co-writer Dan Wilson acknowledged he had heard about the effect of appoggiaturas, he said he thinks the song elicits a powerful response because the lyrics are filled with true, raw emotion.
"With Adele, we wrote this song that was about a desperately heartbreaking end of a relationship, and she was really, really feeling it at the time, and we were imaginatively creating," he told NPR.
However, others say the song's lyrics make the tune relatable to a wide audience.
Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, an associate professor of psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, told the Boston Globe that liking or disliking the song could be indicative of the type of music people are generally attracted to.
"People who really love the song tend to be more nostalgic, sentimental, and spend more time daydreaming," Chamorro-Premuzic explained. "People who dislike it are more shallow, pragmatic, and prefer positive and energetic mood states."
Whether you love it or hate the tune, Adele must be doing something right. The British songstress took home six Grammy awards Sunday night, including one for "Best Pop Solo Performance" for the melody.
UPDATE: We have received a number emails stating that the definition of appoggiatura used in this story is incorrect. Additionally, NPR has also received similar notes from listeners. In response "All Things Considered" host Melissa Block spoke with composer, conductor and music commentator Rob Kapilow, who offered a second opinion on the definition and usage of appoggiatura. An audio recording and transcript of that interview are both available on NPR's website.
WATCH Adele's "Someone Like You":