Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” Lyrics Meaning

The real-life incident behind “Rolling in the Deep” is well known. Adele was suffering from heartbreak, if you will, as she had just broken up with her boyfriend. And by all accounts they had a considerable amount of beef, as in him being a toxic lover whose association negatively affected her self-esteem.

But in this track she is coming off as the direct opposite of a devastated ex.  Instead her goal seems to be making this guy regret ‘starting a fire in her heart’ in the first place. Or viewed from a different perspective, as the first verse suggests he has regularly mistreated her. And whereas she may have been love-struck at first, she has “finally” reached the point where she can perceive him as the unsavory individual he actually is. 

Indeed the lyrics read as if she is anticipating him taking some type of spiteful action in light of the two of them breaking up. But she is here to let him know that she’s going to meet him tit for tat. So if he tries to ‘sell her out’ – for instance reveal some of her secrets to the public – she will also ‘lay his sh** bare’. In fact from the onset she is practically warning him not to “underestimate the things [she] will do” in retaliation, particularly if provoked.

Mourning Song

But instead of being consumed with anger, this can also be interpreted as sort of a mourning song. For Adele looks back at the romance and realizes that she and her partner “could have had it all”. And coming so close to happiness yet missing the mark logically has her disappointed. 

Meaning of “Rolling in the Deep”

Moreover the title of this song, “rolling in the deep”, actually points to the idea that at one point in time this guy had Adele’s ‘heart inside his hand’. The titular phrase itself is derived from the slang term “roll deep” which, at least in British society (according to Adele), means to have somebody’s back no matter what. And specifically within the romantic context of this song, it would insinuate that the addressee was in total control of her love, and she was completely committed to him. But once again the homey was the abusive sort. Owing to this, even post-breakup there are still emotional “scars” that the songstress still has to deal with.

Second Verse

The second verse operates along the above mentioned sentiments. This time around, the singer reminds her ex that she will reveal his secretes in due time, much to his embarrassment. Meanwhile, somewhat in contrast to the first verse, she is now stating that even if it is his intent to publicize her private life, she has “no story to be told”. That’s like another way of saying she has no secrets which she is ashamed of. And afterwards, she basically tells him to f off.

Third Verse

Then in the third verse she talks about her intent to ‘turn her sorrow into treasured gold’. This likely alludes to the notion that she took a toxic, emotionally-devastating relationship and flipped it into this hit song. And basically she is saying that this entire scenario is his own doing, as in dude ‘reaping what he sows’.

Primary Sentiment of “Rolling in the Deep”

And this whole tirade brings us back to the primary sentiment the songstress is expressing, which is assuring her ex that he is ‘going to wish he never met her’. Or stated differently, he done went and broke the wrong woman’s heart. And we have a general idea who exactly she is addressing, a now-forgotten musician by the name of Slinky Sunbeam. Indeed it seems his popularity actually peaked around the time this song was hot, as he is known primarily as “the guy who broke Adele’s heart”. And now looking back some 10 years later, it seems that if karma actually did catch up with him, though it wasn’t through any effort of Adele’s part. Rather he had his 15 seconds of fame due to being her ex and apparently was unable to hold onto the stardom under his own accord.

Lyrics of "Rolling in the Deep"

Music Video

Sam Brown served as the director of the “Rolling in the Deep” music video. It was a hit itself, earning seven nomination at the MTV VMA Awards of 2011.  And it did actually take home three, specifically in the following categories:

  • “Best Editing”
  • “Best Cinematography”
  • “Best Art Direction”

Release Date of “Rolling in the Deep”

This was the lead single from Adele’s internationally-acclaimed sophomore album, “21”. The pair of Columbia Records and XL Recordings released it as such on 29 November 2010.

However, Adele is known to have performed this song on 25 November 2010 (4 days prior to its release). That performance took place on the show of a Dutch media personality by the name of Paul de Leeuw. Actually that was Adele’s first time performing the song live.

Success of “Rolling in the Deep”

As of now (circa 2020), Adele is arguably the greatest music star to emerge in the last decade or so. And “Rolling in the Deep” is recognized as the song which initially put her in that position.

For instance, the track sold over eight million digital copies around the world, being the fifth-best song in that regard during 2011. Indeed it set a record within the confines of XL Recordings by becoming the top-selling track they had ever released.

This hit won two Grammys the following year, taking home the highly-coveted “Record of the Year” and “Song of the Year” awards. Also the visual earned another award, this time a Grammy in the category of “Best Short Form Video”.

“Rolling in the Deep” topped four of Billboard’s charts, including most importantly the Hot 100 itself. Indeed as of 2008, Billboard has placed this track at number 35 amongst its list of “The Hot 100’s All-Time Top 100 Songs”.

It also managed to obtain the top position on music charts in 10 other countries outside of the US.

And in addition to that, in her native country, Adele witnessed “Rolling in the Deep” reach as high as number two on the UK Singles Chart. And it also astoundingly made it onto the top 10 in over 15 other countries.

A Multi-Platinum Song in many Nations

The list of countries in which this song went multi-Platinum is quite extensive. They include the following:

  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • Italy
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • Switzerland,
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

In fact in America, “Rolling in the Deep” has been certified octuple-Platinum.

Covers of “Rolling in the Deep”

The list of prominent artists who have covered “Rolling in the Deep” is also quite lengthy in and of itself. And a few of the outstanding names include Ariana Grande, Lil Wayne and the “Glee” cast. Moreover a live rendition of the song dropped by Linkin Park in 2011 managed to top the UK Rock Chart. Below is Linkin Park’s remarkable cover of this Adele hit:

Popular Usage of “Rolling in the Deep”

And amongst the popular television shows this song has appeared on are “90210” (2010) and “Doctor Who” (2011).

Moreover the track has been utilized by organizations as diverse as Apple, the NHL, the NBA and even during the 2012 Summer Olympics.

In fact US President Donald Trump used this song himself in 2016 when he was campaigning for his Presidential nomination. This was of course without acquiring the permission of Adele first, which caused her to publicly state that she was not supporting the Donald.

Did Adele write “Rolling in the Deep” herself?

Yes, she did! Adele wrote this massive hit along with fellow British musician Paul Epworth. Epworth is also the artist who produced the track.

In fact Adele has acknowledged that working with Epworth not only resulted in this hit tune but also made her into a better singer in general.


Another artist who is recognized as having directly inspired the sound of “Rolling in the Deep” is an old-school singer by the name of Wanda Jackson.  And this is someone whose music Adele was actually introduced to via a bus driver when she toured in the United States promoting her first album, “19” (2008).

Is this song really about a former boyfriend of Adele’s?

Yes. However, Adele seems to have never stated forthrightly which of her exes serves as the narrative inspiration behind this song. But fandom has concluded it is fellow British musician named Slinky Sunbeam, someone we believe she started dating in 2008.  

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