Adele’s video director explains why Adele uses a flip-phone in ‘Hello’

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As we discussed on Friday, Adele dropped her first new single in THREE YEARS. And she took over the internet. She took over the radio. She took over iTunes. She took over the press. She took over the charts. And she took over all the funny chatter/memes/gossip too, because her video for “Hello” featured some outdated technology, like flip-phones and landlines. The director of “Hello,” Canadian auteur Xavier Dolan, explained the flip-phones and more in an interview with People Magazine. Some highlights:

Dolan was nervous: “Adele reached out, much to my surprise, and asked to meet. We met, and I listened to the song, and I knew instantly that I loved the song and that I’d love to direct the music video. I was sort of scared that the song would be great – I had no doubts the song would be great – but would I be able to imagine something, some story to tell? Would I be inspired? I was nervous to tell Adele, “Hey, I love the song. I don’t think I’m the right guy for it.” That didn’t happen! The song was so inspiring right away, and so was Adele. Everything appeared with such clarity instantly: It’s like I was watching a film listening to the song. I could close my eyes and just see Adele wandering about the house and making phone calls and ending up in the forest.”

Why the flip-phones: “It’s just not that big of a deal. It makes me uncomfortable filming iPhones because I feel like I’m shooting an iPhone commercial. And the same thing stands for cars: Drive them! Buy them! But on film, they’re distracting to me. They’re elements that you identify to our reality so much that – whether it’s a short film, a film, a music video – they just hurt the piece’s sensibility and reality, and it’s not as romantic. Those things: iPhones, laptops, all those elements, to me, they bring me back to reality: That’s not what you want. You want to get out of your own life; you want to enter someone else’s; you want to travel somewhere; you want to be told a story. I’m realizing maybe I’ve been more distracting than anything else with that flip phone, but it wasn’t intentional!

[From People]

Dolan also spoke to the LA Times and they asked him about the flip-phone too! He said he’s being driven “crazy” by the GIFs of the flip-phone and to all of those GIFers, he says, “guys, get over it. It doesn’t matter.” He says he “never like filming modern phones or cars. They’re so implanted in our lives that when you see them in movies you’re reminded you’re in reality. If you see an iPhone or a Toyota in a movie, they’re anti-narrative, they take you out of the story. If I put an iPhone or a modern car in a movie it feels like I’m making a commercial.” I sort of get that. Plus, Adele is pretty conservative with how she licenses her songs for commercial use, and she probably didn’t want the music video to end up being a de facto phone commercial either. Even though she’s said before that she has an iPhone, and I would imagine that Apple would LOVE to license the song for a commercial.

adele phone

Photos courtesy of Fame/Flynet.

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82 Responses to “Adele’s video director explains why Adele uses a flip-phone in ‘Hello’”

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  1. Mimz says:

    I actually didnt even notice the flipfone and really people should stop overanalyzing stuff. I watched and felt the video and the song, and the mood exactly as he intended. I went through emotions while watching it and was not reminded of annoying product placement.

    Well done.

    • Lahdidahbaby says:

      I noticed it but thought it sort of contributed to the mood in some odd way. It’s kind of astonishing how strong the acting is in the video. I’d heard that Adele wants to act in films, and I thought maybe she wantd a super dramatic video to pave the way.

    • Val says:

      I loved the flip phone! I’m so tired of product placement in music videos, so it was such a nice thing to have something that contributes to the story without trying it to me.

      • ekaterina says:

        Especially rap videos, Beyonce n them so going about labels, where they eat, drink,drive.refresh I g to see a rel artist who has no need to roll around naked a la anaconda style,lol
        She so beautiful.

      • Lauren II says:

        As a Canadian, I am very proud of Xavier Dolan ‘ s artistic approach to Adele’s video. Classy, authentic, visually stunning and meaningful.

      • Belle Epoch says:

        I loved the “snap” of the flip phone closing on their conversation. Much more satisfying for the story than turning off an iPhone!

    • lisa says:

      i still use a flip phone!

      • Byte Me says:

        so do I

      • MMRB says:

        I wish i did. But my last one bowed to abuse. It’s highly under-rated and has that pleasing snap clack noise that I love so much.
        #clamshell4ever

      • tessy says:

        I still use a pre- flip phone, pay as you go and rarely spend more than $10 a month on it. I don’t want to walk around scrolling and poking at a phone all the time, I like to look at people and nature outside, not a damned stupid phone.

      • ImFlying says:

        I used a flip phone for years, for only $10 a month, just like the above poster said. I remember feeling embarrassed by it, but I realize that was so dumb. I have a smart phone now, but I honestly don’t understand why the iphone is so much better than a regular smartphone. Maybe I am just not in-the-know.

    • lisa2 says:

      I didn’t notice the flipphone either; and listening to his reasoning I agree. I was watching some horror film this weekend. Right at a tense moment the character goes to his laptop and for a moment all I saw was the Apple logo…then he had a coke or pepsi and yes my mind’s eye took note of it. And it did talk me out of the scene for that moment. We see it all the time in movies.. All those dump product endorsements. I miss the time when that wasn’t the case.

    • TreadStyle says:

      +1 same here, didn’t even notice. I agree w all he says about taking away from the “story” of the video. Very insightful director.

  2. lower-case deb says:

    i didn’t realize the flipphone and landline being so odd until my son chirped in about the OLLLLDness of it all. is this a generational thing? for tweens and teens is seeing flipphones like peering into the distant past?

    Love this Adele/Lionel Richie meme of Adele hanging up on him :)
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=PUjvaMWKeBI

    can’t wait for the sequel where Lionel calls again and singa “I just called to say…” heh heh.

    nevermind, i’ll find someone like you.

    • antipodean says:

      Thank you for that link lower-case deb. When I heard the title of Adele’s new song, I immediately thought of Lionel Richie’s old song. I always loved that song, and it brings back very dear memories of that time. Now I love both songs, and hopefully new good memories will be made!

    • Ennie says:

      Lione Richie’s song say Something like Is it me you’ve looking for?
      The other guy for “I just called to say Inlive you is Stevie Wonder… They could do a mash up of the 3 anyway!

      • lower-case deb says:

        oooh that’s right! still would love to see the mash up :)
        Adele’s song on repeat on radio destroying my braincells. (several stations thought it’s a good idea to do her whole discog?!!)

        where’s the creative part of youtube when you need em right?

  3. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    I didn’t really notice the flip phone, and I thought the land line was supposed to suggest that she was at an old cottage that just never bothered to change their phone to a wireless. I’m not understanding why this is such a big deal.

  4. liz_bee says:

    I assumed that the video was supposed to be a flashback, since it’s kind of a breakup song, and that explained the flip phones. Guess I was wrong though.

  5. Sabrine says:

    It totally makes sense. I still have a flip phone, can’t see any reason to get rid of it. For my pay as you go plan, it’s perfect and does what I need, including texting. If I want to use the Internet I can wait until I get home. I’d rather pull out my e-reader than be glued to an iPhone.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      I have an iPhone, and I never use the Internet on it. It’s too slow. You’re not missing anything.

    • Eleonor says:

      Sometimes I joke with friends who usually make fun of me because I have a flip phone too. Usually when people ask me why “don’t you have a smartphone” ? “why “don’t you have an I-phone?” my answer is: my telephone makes an astonishing thing: it makes call. And textmessages. The end.
      I live on internet 24-7, I don’t need it on the phone too. But I get why people like smartphone and all that stuff.

    • jwoolman says:

      I love being able to read online while doing other things away from my office, including getting some exercise, plus I need quick access to e-mail for my work (if they can’t get a response in two minutes these days, they go on to the next freelancer in their database….). Also when internet is out on my regular computers, often it is still up via the phone’s server and I can get my work done (I need info on the net and access to online bilingual dictionaries). Plus all those lovely cartoon apps for when the cable is out or I’m in the kitchen. And games. The one thing I rarely use a smartphone for is phone calls!!! Hate talking on the phone, e-mail is much less intrusive for me.

      Needless to say, I got a smartphone early…. And for me, it’s been liberating to have a little computer in my pocket. But a friend really just wanted to talk on the phone and occasionally text, and a tiny flip phone was all he needed. They became a vanishing species, so he reluctantly got an iPhone – which of course he now loves to pieces because of all the things it can do that he didn’t realize he wanted to do. But he would still have had a very happy life with just a little flip phone in his pocket.

  6. Sullivan says:

    I noticed the flip-phone, but it wasn’t a distraction.

  7. OrigialTessa says:

    I thought the phone signified that this all happened in the not so distant past. I still had a flip phone until about 2010.

  8. burnsie says:

    It’s also nowhere near as satisfying to hang up on someone using a touch screen. There isn’t that oomph factor there

  9. InvaderTak says:

    Why not use a generic smart phone then? There a are lots of them. I get what yes saying about not wanting the video to be a commercial though.

    • Jedi says:

      I think snapping shut a flip phone in anger is much more dramatic than tapping a screen to end a call. there’s a lot of sass in that snap.

  10. Miss M says:

    I loved the flip phone! It gave me a 90′s flashback!
    I liked his explanation. It makes sense. I understand product placement, but anythig in excess hurts my eyes and gets me distracted.

  11. ds says:

    I’m probably the only one who thinks this video is bad. But I don’t care. It’s super literal and boring, and I absolutely dislike this ambition of music video directors trying to make a short film and interrupting the song with additional background sounds or pausing it for some kind of dialogue. Make both; cut and edit two versions if you don’t know how to place the visual story in a music video. So, yeah; I don’t get the video hype.

    • Neah23 says:

      Personally I don’t care for the video or the song I’m not feeling ether.

      • Daria Morgendorffer says:

        @Neah23 – Same here. Love Adele, and I don’t think the song is bad, but it’s not the magnum opus that people are making it out to be. I anticipate that there will be much better songs on her album.

      • Neah23 says:

        @ Daria Morgendorffer

        Exactly I think people have missed her so much and real singing in mainstream pop music, that they are making this song and video bigger then it really is.

        I really like Adele, but I see people are putting her on this obtainable pedestal where everything she does is perfect and she can do no wrong.

      • Artemis says:

        I usually tire of Adele’s songs pretty quickly. The first listen was meh, then it’s gets alright, then I think ‘this is amazing’ and then I just get bored. It’s super odd.
        Except for Hometown Glory of 19, it easily beats every song she ever made. HG is my Someone Like You!

        And I agree, people are so thirsty for ‘real’ music that they praise Adele for a normal (mediocre) song and video.

      • mary says:

        I was disappointed, too. I love her songs, but I can tell this won’t be one of my favorites.

    • Talita says:

      Same here… I couldn’t make through the first two minutes.

    • mia girl says:

      I’m guessing Adele wanted this to be more like a short film and so she hired Dolan who is a much lauded film director (he won the jury prize at Cannes last year). This might actually be the first music video he’s directed.

      For me, the video made the song a bit more interesting. I love Adele, but this song gets a little repetitious with the chorus.

    • Nance says:

      Me too, I don’t care about the phone, but gof it was hard to focus on the song with all the background dialogues.

    • cleveland girl says:

      You took the words right out of my mouth. Plus that, I thought the male in the video looked young enough to be her child…even tho she is only 27 or something. Don’t hate on me please…I LOVE Adelle and this song…just hate the video.

    • islandwalker says:

      I thought the video was awful and distracting, and the song is a snooze. She has a lovely voice but her music brings me down. ( I have a flip phone so didn’t even notice.)

    • belle de jour says:

      +1. And it was as overproduced as the music in the song.

  12. Sixer says:

    I didn’t notice. But anything that consciously tries to avoid product placement is fine by me. Once you realise TV shows/films/music videos do this, he’s right: it does take you out of the story. Once seen, you can’t unsee.

    • mimif says:

      Sixer! OT but I cruised through In The Flesh in a ridiculously short period of time. Whyyy did the cancel that? Such a shame, it was getting so good. Now I’m back to Penny Dreadful and does Timothy Dalton really have that accent? He sounds just like Ser Davos from GOT. What accent is that? It’s driving me bananas.

      Also, not feeling the Adele song. At all.

      • Sixer says:

        It was a gorgeous little show, wasn’t it? Beautifully filmed and ZOMBIES as a story of otherness rather than all the usual horror tropes.

        Ser Davos has a Geordie (Newcastle) accent – well done by Cunningham, who is Irish. Timothy Dalton isn’t really doing an accent in Penny Dreadful but he isn’t forcing RP either. And thank the lord they stopped Billie’s HORRENDOUS attempt at a Northern Irish accent!

        I think Adele is great at communicating emotional honesty, including here, but this one’s a bit too power ballad for me. Needs a better hook.

      • mimif says:

        Yeah it was a great show! So many parallels that can be drawn to our non-zombie life.

        Billie’s accent is gruesome. Grue-some. But listen lady, to my ‘Murican ear, Timothy has an accent. Is that his normal speaking voice? He was one of my first crushes, mind you, so I’m invested AND I don’t remember him speaking like that previously. Must go investigate. And now I want to hear your accent. GO.
        Also, I watched an interview with creepy Ramsay Bolton/Iwan Rheon speaking Welsh, and I just nodded my head the whole time, keep talking even tho I have zero idea what you’re saying, because it’s strangely beautiful.

        P.S. I do love Adele’s accent, too. The End.

      • Sixer says:

        I would find a clip and listen intently but I have to go and collect Sixlet Major from a friend’s in a moment.

        From memory: you’d expect Timmers to use RP (ie posh) in that role but he doesn’t. I have noticed! There may be some slight general Northern/North Midlands inflection in there since that’s where he’s from?

        My mother’s side of the family is Welsh (and Welsh-speaking). I agree, it’s a lilting, lovely language. Here, have Ser Alliser doing Under Milk Wood as a Dylan Thomas treat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3C6whXo7jyE. As Welsh as English gets!

        My accent is um… a little bit Estuary, a little bit posh, and of late, the vowels have gone a little bit West Country. Mongrel-accented, me!

      • mimif says:

        Yes! I saw that Owen Teale clip last time we were all talking about Isles type stuff, his voice is beautiful.

        And GAHHH https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Wi88xfECJ0
        I didn’t know he (Timmers makes me laugh) was Welsh! I don’t think I’ve seen him in a movie since I was 8 (true story), and it wasn’t until I randomly mentioned he was hot, and you told me to check out PD, that I heard him speak again. I can’t for the life of me remember what movie it was (not Bond), it was some super sad, slightly romantic but also horrific type movie. Anyway, thanks for the clarification. Dude has certainly aged well.

        ETA: Um, kinda laughing, because pretty sure the “movie” I was thinking about was the Faerie Tale Theater series. :D

    • TotallyBiased says:

      Well, it may be that Verizon didn’t use that ad campaign in the UK, but I was yanked out of musing along with the video the minute I heard “Can you hear me now?” ;)

      • Sixer says:

        HA! I don’t think that campaign hit here – but I’d likely not know since I record all TV with the express intention of ignoring ad breaks! But I get your drift!

  13. Lucy says:

    I actually laughed out loud at the phone, but his explanation makes sense. It did ocurr to me that maybe she wouldn’t want any brand to casually make an appearance, like it happens in way too many videoclips.

  14. Jenni says:

    First world problems.

  15. DONNA MARTIN says:

    I was distracted by the flip phone more than I like to admit then later just assumes it was a flashback but isn’t Adele 25 now? Anywya she’s too young for the flip phone so I later analyze it as part of the art.

  16. Kelly says:

    I guess I’m old, but I have a landline. I give that number to doctors, businesses, etc. You’re really special if you have both my numbers, not everyone needs to be able to reach me 24/7. I find for cellphones people get personally offended if you don’t answer that spot on because they assume you always have it on you.

  17. word says:

    What’s wrong with having a flip phone anyways? I hate how our society is so hung up on have the “latest and greatest” technology, even if it makes you broke ! Stop it already. I have my original cell phone I got with my contract 5 years ago. It still works great and suits my needs. It works better than most smartphones and has better range !

    • Tiny Martian says:

      Yup. I have a landline, and a flip phone, which I only use when I’m out and about, and only my friends and family have the number. People ask why I don’t have a smartphone, and the truth is that I’ve never needed one yet, so why pay the exorbitant price of phone and phone plan?

  18. AlmondJoy says:

    I care nothing about the flip phone… Just wanna talk about how cute Tristan Wilds is 😍

    • antipodean says:

      Me too! He is such a sweetie, and all the dimples. He is only 26 but already has quite an enviable and varied body of work. He has a bright future ahead of him. And he’s from Staten Island.

  19. grabbyhands says:

    I noticed it, but didn’t find it particularly distracting. It is weird what people focus on.

    Having said that, his reasoning makes total sense. I have an iPhone, but every time I see one in a commercial or show, I assume that it is there specifically as product placement and not just because a lot of people have smartphones these days.

    I miss my little flip phone. But I hate talking on the phone, so I use mine mostly for texting, which I wasn’t able to do easily with a strictly numerical key pad.

  20. Sarah says:

    This video reminded me so much of this Pakistani video that came out a few years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmLZR5gxu7Y

    I tried looking for a video with subtitles, but there wasn’t any. The concept is the same, but it’s interesting how both have executed it.

  21. My two cents says:

    Never could understand the hype around certain singers. Everything they put out is lauded with positivity, and like it’s the greatest thing ever, when in reality it’s good but just mediocre as far as talent goes today. There are some beautiful sounding voices out there that don’t get the hype this woman does. Of course, that is my personal opinion and I’m sure it’s one not shared by many.

  22. Melly M says:

    I’m not old, but have an old cellphone. I want it to make calls and to text and that works very well so I don’t get why some people expect me to buy a new one. Just to be a good consumer???
    Also, I prefer not to be addicted to anything and I sometimes suspect smartphones do that to some people, since I see them holding it 24/7, looking at it every 5 min…

  23. Prairiegirl says:

    I was more distracted by her beautiful old school nails and perfect eyeliner than the flip phone, tbh.

    • Dhavynia says:

      Well you’re not alone and the eyeliner suits her well

      I miss flip phones and I do own a smartphone but not an IPhone. I actually refuse to buy any apple products because it reminds me of all the dumb people standing in line for days to get an overpriced item that will be replaced in a year’s time. I rather spend my time and hard earned money on something else

  24. Sisi says:

    Rather strange that people found the flipphone an oldfashioned choice that stiod out, but the sepia was fine.

  25. Square Bologna says:

    Breaking Bad featured flip phones too. I never minded. ;)

  26. daniel says:

    OMG! Seriously!? GET A LIFE! LOL!

  27. Shannon says:

    Meh. Dumb ‘controversy.’ I have a flip phone and love it. Much easier to enter my ssn, mom’s maiden name, acct number or whatever random crap the computer-voice wants me to enter. I had a Droid and found it annoying.

  28. Kyre says:

    Also, there’s a phone booth as well in the video. And Tardis or not, they are also very outdated. I took everything, the tone of the monochrome, both the flip phone and the phone booth to instill a sense of timelessness, the past. The house was old, covered in sheets, etc.

    Mood matters.

  29. Merryweather says:

    I loved it! I thought it was brilliant they used a flip phone, you can think so many things based on just that: maybe she got a flip phone she owned because she went to this house to get away from her actual life, to get away from people and find some solitude. Maybe it’s a phone from her past, the only one with the actual number from her ex boyfriend. Maybe she found the old mobile in the house, and is trying to use it to contact people from her past, let them know she’s back. So many things, man I love Adele. (still think the music is more about herself and past self than any relationship as the clip suggests, but then again they obviously would make it about a romance because it’s Adele and she’s the queen of Broken Hearts)

  30. EM says:

    It makes me laugh how he goes into detail and faux artistic explanation about the flip phone. More like the real reason an iPhone didn’t appear, is related to the contractual wrangle (i.e. headache from dealing with Apple, as they’re a control-freak of a corporation) regarding product placement.

  31. Olivia says:

    Makes sense, but if that’s the case there are many off-brand, nondescript smartphones available. IPhones aren’t the only option.

  32. Ryan says:

    Love love love Xavier Dolan. I think he’s a fan of retro, anyway.