I’ll crack open Adele’s song 'Water Under the Bridge' from her 25 Album, and what a brilliant album it is. If you have comments/questions on this or other songs/movies/general queries, please comment.
You can find the lyrics on google: keyword 'lyrics water under the bridge'. Before reading on you may want to listen to the song, too (see below).
One way to consider love is ALL types of love, when boiled down, consist of the same set of elements, and then each love type—such as romantic, friend, sibling love, or parental love of children, or love of God and so on—all differ by features. Like people are ALL the same in an elementary way, but ALL look different by features.
Adele, unlike most singer-songwriters, intimately understands these elements of love, and in this song, she reveals them. In verse one she tells of a relationship where she and him (I’ll assume) enjoy an emotionally intimate relationship. So much so, she is at the point of bestowing her love. This for anyone dating is a watershed moment. It means: upon you I bestow immense value; I assure you of my commitment to attend and tend to you; I take up abstracted ownership of you as MY beloved. But before she can do these things she seeks of him the same, yet these are not forthcoming as the chorus reveals. And so, this song is all about unrequited love.
The first line of the chorus tells of him leaving her outside in the cold. This refers directly back to her offer of immense value of him. To be warm, to be in her life, to be valued. To be loved and cherished as one would any loved beloved. She wants the same of him. The second line tells him to take up ownership of her, as she will of him on loving him. Lovers seek to hold onto their perfect beloveds. They never want to let them go when they value them so much. The final line tells him: although I want you to own me, as my lover, I won’t let you as you are. She needs him to assure her of his commitment to attend and tend to her as lovers do. But, his apparent disregard does not assure her he will be there as and when she needs him. Although it seems this final line is holding her bestowal of love back, it’s all three lines that do this. That’s to say, he must love her like she will love him by bestowing immense value upon her; assuring her of his commitment, and; take up abstracted ownership of her. When he does all three, and she does the same in return, they will both enter the state of ‘being in love’ as she seeks.
This is amazing! In the first 11 lines, Adele lays out the three elements of bestowed love against a backdrop of unrequited love. Very few songwriters understand love to this degree, and of those who do, even less can bring such understanding together so succinctly.
Beyond the eleventh line, the focus of the song is on her convincing him to bestow his love upon her. Verse 2, for instance, asks him to let her down gently if he's not going to bestow, but at the same time recognise his own feelings of love in the same way she does, or what Tennov calls 'limerence'. She also tries to appeal to past sentiment by saying that their love is not like water under the bridge (as the title suggests), meaning the time we have spent together, and feelings felt, have value, and you should take these into account.
Her final heartfelt appeal to him is in the last 2 lines of the third verse. She tells him that she's never asked for much, all she seeks is love.
These two lines seem quite innocent, but again, Adele is showing she understands love beyond how it is taken for granted across the West. He will choose to bestow love, or not, as bestowal is rational. He will do so based on many factors with loving feelings—if there at all—just one of them. For instance, these lines ask him to stretch his mind back and remember she is not a beloved who takes, she is a beloved who gives. She knows that in bestowing love, lovers seek the good life which they do by reviewing the past and present, and predicting the future. On aggregate they conclude: there is good for me with my beloved, or not. Adele is telling him there is good because she has been, and will be, a giving person which is in addition, or goes beyond, the loving feelings he may, or may not, have for her.
The above said, sadly, Adele's plea for requited love is a hopeless one and matches the riff of the song. The argument being, if you have to beg for love, there's little chance you'll get it. Adele, the singer, understands such in this unrequited love song of no end, just as Bonnie Riatt does in her haunting song ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me.” You find this never-ending reflected in the song’s closure. Adele tells him their love is not water under the bridge and her backing singers tell him, over and over, to agree with her. The question we are left with is how long will this dejected lover plead for his love? The answer, of course, is... forevermore.