This song seems to combine only two elements: Adele’s haunting voice and a simple piano instrumental.
It later develops into a concoction of some cello and violin, also choir and percussion. Even without it all those additions, it would still be an extremely powerful song. One of those that you can feel in your chest. The lyrics are quite simple, relatable, but for that reason, deeply moving. I remember when this song came out, out of nowhere, and how everybody was deeply moved by Adele’s performance. In my opinion, she showed her best vocal skills to date on this one. Because of that it is the best song out this selection.
Instead of the gradual change, Beyoncé opens up with the full power of her voice and the instrumental all at once. The sound is reminiscent of the Sasha Fierce age. Despite being over 10 years old, it didn’t age much at all. The choir works much better in this one. Beyoncé, as usual, uses it in a way that invites listeners to sing along. However beautiful, it doesn’t have the same tear-jerking properties of Adele’s version. Maybe that’s why it hasn’t gained the same iconic status as hers or even as other songs from that album.
This one again uses quite classical instrumental as a base: piano, acoustic guitar, violin, even a bit of flute and trumpet. Richie combines it with very 80’s synthesizer, which make it sound a bit outdated and cheesy. However, it gets points for being the most musically ambitious and diverse. The lyrics, on the other hand, are on the same level as Adele’s: simple, powerful and worthy of shedding a tear. The vocal performance is not as impressive as the other ones, therefore he doesn’t sell his emotional dread as well as the others.
Eminem’s song does, of course, stand out the most from this selection. However, when unpacked, it also has quite simple guitar line and percussion as the base. It doesn’t sound as beautiful and romantic as the others and the lyrics don’t try either. The man is not addressing the woman in a respectful and gentle manner at all. Some interpret it as a reminder to his audience about what person Eminem used to be. However, for me it doesn’t stand out from other rap songs from that time at all - there is nothing innovative about it. The case might be, that it works better as a part of the larger narrative of the album.