Adele has been breaking records of late with her new song “Hello,” but now a score of Tom Waits fans are accusing her of plagiarizing one of their hero’s songs, specifically the track “Martha” off his 1973 album Closing Time, Mashable reports.
Some folks took to social media to call out some lyrical similarities between Adele’s “Hello” and one of Tom Waits’ old songs “Martha.”
To get an idea on whether the plagiarism accusations against Adele hold any water, let’s do a comparison.
On “Martha,” Tom Waits imagines himself as an older man who calls up an old flame on the phone to reminisce their romantic times together back when they were both young and in love. At the end of the song, Tom confessed that he’s still in love with the woman.
Meanwhile, on “Hello,” Adele calls an anonymous person — using a flip phone no less — to say, “I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet.”
An excerpt from “Martha” goes like this.
“Hello, hello there, is this Martha? This is old Tom Frost / And I am calling long distance, don’t worry ’bout the cost / ‘Cause it’s been forty years or more, now Martha please recall / Meet me out for coffee, where we’ll talk about it all.”
Adele opens up “Hello” with the following lyrics.
“Hello, it’s me / I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet / To go over everything / They say that time’s supposed to heal ya, but I ain’t done much healing.”
Here are some tweets saying that Adele might have ripped off Tom Waits.
Anyone else suspect Adele has been listening to Tom Waits? New tune is basically Martha sung by a woman. She should've called it 'Martin'
— Richard Roche (@RRocheNeuro) October 23, 2015
The new Adele song (which I've finally heard) is essentially just "Martha" by Tom Waits tho isn't it.
— Davad (@davadsteel) October 29, 2015
Just copped that Adele's Hello is a copy of Tom Waits' Martha.
— Cathal Ó hÚagáin (@CathalWogan) October 29, 2015
Adele's Hello is a poor man's Martha by Tom Waits
— Ria O'Reilly Burke (@RIALISTICstyle) October 25, 2015
There are some who thought that the plagiarism accusations against Adele are flimsy and downright silly.
ok I love Adele and Tom Waits. but just because the content and intent of Hello and Martha are similar does not mean Adele ripped off Tom
— elliot (@prncelli) November 4, 2015
— Magic Mijk (@mgladouceur) November 3, 2015
"Tom Waits fans accuse Adele of plagiarising his 1973 track Martha" Hmm. The topics are similar, but come on.
— Sue Kirk (@SueKirk) November 3, 2015
The concept behind the two tracks are somewhat similar, but to declare that Adele ripped off Tom Waits is overreaching. “Hello” is about Adele calling up an anonymous person, whereas “Martha” specifically addressed an old acquaintance. Granted, the mechanics of the lyrics are quite similar, but the same can be said of many tracks being released year in and year out by various artists.
“It’s not about anyone specifically. It’s about friends, ex-boyfriends, it’s about myself, it’s about my family,” Adele said in an interview with i-D. “It’s also about my fans as well. I feel like everyone thinks I’m so far away and I’m not. Everyone thinks I live in fucking America, I don’t.”
Producer Greg Kurstin did reveal in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that while Adele cited Tom Waits as a musical influence, she also mentioned many other “storytellers” other than him. Kurstin added that he and Adele came up with “Hello” from “nothing,” and that it materialized from “something we stumbled on when we were playing in the room.”
“She (Adele) didn’t want to just go through and write a pop song with any particular formula,” Greg told Entertainment Weekly, adding that Adele hoped to create something “real and believable.”
The take away from these is that Adele might have drawn inspiration from Tom Waits’ “Martha.” To say that it’s a case of homage would be accurate too. But plagiarism? Not even close.
[Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]