The Strokes is an American rock band formed in 1998. The band’s work can be attributed to indie rock, post-punk, garage rock and the New Wave genre. The Strokes have released 6 studio albums, the latest being The New Abnormal and The Adults Are Talking is the single from this album. The song was prominent on the charts of 2020, critics also considered it to be one of the band’s best songs, if not the best.
The song was recorded back in 2019, for the first time the public heard it at the band’s concert in Los Angeles in the same year, later the song was included in the band’s performance program at various events, and on April 10, 2020 the album The New Abnormal was released, so the studio record. However, on October 31, The Adults Are Talking was released as a single, a shorter version, and on December 1, the official video was released.
The text is rather metaphorical; it is not easy to wade through constructions and figures of speech to the meaning. The name itself is more a metaphor than a literal expression, “adults talk” – a group of people, strong and influential, make some decisions or discuss something that should not be understood and accessible to those who are lower, less than them. The text should be interpreted more as a protest against the bosses of the social ladder, politicians, those who have taken higher positions in society and now use their position to hide the true state of things and their mistakes from the less privileged.
This becomes clear from the lines: “They accuse us, crucify and shame us, but it’s not our fault that the problem is with us, we are asking for your attention with all our might”; there is a conflict between “us” (to whom the lyrical hero refers himself) and “them” (those who are stronger), “they” accuse “us” of what “we” are, as if it depends on “us”, although “we” are just trying to get help by stating a problem. The protagonist, however, does not give up – “I’m climbing your wall”; he keeps sneaking up on “them” to get noticed. In the chorus, there is a hint that the song may not be about the conflict of the conventionally weak and strong, but also about love: “Don’t go there, because you won’t return, I know you think of me when you think of her”, although these lines might as well not be about a romantic couple, but about other types of relationships.
Either way, the conflict remains, as the lines continue, “But it doesn’t make sense when you try hardest to do the right thing without any compensation,” “And then you did something wrong and said it was wonderful, and you don’t understand how could complain” “You got confused yourself because you wanted me to get confused too – but you also want me to repeat after you” – the hero is misled, and although he notices where is good and where is bad, it does not play any role plays, because the result is the same – they and, possibly, “us” are dissatisfied.
In the second verse, which is significantly smaller than the first, the more obvious narrative from the first about social conflict returns: “You were waiting for the elevator, you said all the words that I dreamed of” – a rather noticeable allusion to politicians and the electorate, those in power were waiting for the rise, saying that, anything to those who can provide them with this rise. “No more excuses and excuses, information is everywhere”: now “we” have access to what “they” hid, this data cannot be hidden, it cannot be avoided; the hero is inexorably ready to point out to “them” the mistakes they have made.
The connection and the ending after the chorus, on the one hand, confuse even more, on the other hand, they reveal the attitude of the hero to the opposition side: “I don’t want anything, I know that it’s not your fault, I don’t want you to live like I”, “Shareholders, the same nonsense, a different life. Oh, maybe I can fix it.” The positions are fixed for the participants, everyone makes mistakes, and the weakest, nevertheless, does not want the strongest to live the same way as he does; shareholders can be understood as both rich and traitors, for example, someone who betrayed the main character, “sold” him.
So, the song is unambiguously about conflict, but the conflict can be interpreted as a conflict between social strata, politicians and ordinary people, a conflict between friends, lovers, employers and workers. Given that “you” can be translated as “you” or “you”, the song’s variety of meanings is limited solely by the experience of the listener. After all, the risk of betrayal, the desire to hide unfavorable information and the fear of admitting mistakes are characteristic of so many types of relationships.