Adele Wiki

“Turning Tables”
Single by Adele
from the album 21
Released November 5, 2011 (UK)
December 14, 2011 (Italy)
Recorded 2009; Sphere Studios (London)
Genre Pop, soul
Length 4:10
Label XL Recordings
Writer(s) Adele Adkins, Ryan Tedder
Producer(s) Jim Abbiss
Adele singles chronology
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Rumour Has It Skyfall
21 track listing
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Rumour Has It Don’t You Remember

“Turning Tables” is a song by British singer-songwriter Adele and serves as the fifth and final single from her second studio album, 21. Conceived after an altercation with her former lover, the song was co-written by Adele and singer-songwriter Ryan Tedder, while the production was completed by Jim Abbiss. “Turning Tables” is a pop ballad with a soulful sound; its instrumentation consists of piano, “Broadway-worthy” strings and guitar. Lyrically, the song describes a domestic dispute in which its narrator assumes a defensive stance against a manipulative ex-lover. XL Recordings sent the song to UK mainstream radio on November 5, 2011, alongside “Rumour Has It.”

“Turning Tables” received acclaim from music critics, who praised Adele’s vocals and its production. The song reached the top-twenty of the singles charts in four countries, including Belgium, Italy, and the Netherlands. It also peaked at number 62 on the UK Singles Chart and 63 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for selling over 500,000 digital downloads. Adele performed “Turning Tables” on television shows such as Late Show with David Letterman in the US and The Jonathan Ross Show in the UK. She also included it in the setlist of her 2011 Adele Live tour.

Though there was much speculation regarding the single release of “Turning Tables,” Adele’s team eventually opted to release “Rumour Has It” as the fourth and final international single from 21, as confirmed by Jonathan Dickins.[1] Though its US release was cancelled[2], both “Turning Tables” and “I’ll Be Waiting”​​​​​​ received radio airplay on American top 40 mainstream radio. The song was released as a single exclusively in the UK, Italy, and the Netherlands.


“Turning Tables” was written by Adele and Ryan Tedder, while its production was helmed by Jim Abbiss. Adele and Tedder had met while staying in the London Hotel in Los Angeles for the 2009 Grammy Awards.[3] After expressing interest in working with one another, they eventually scheduled a studio session at Sphere Studios in London, for which Tedder arrived four hours early to familiarize himself with Adele’s previous music.[4] He came up with the titular phrase, which reminded him of “Chasing Pavements,”[5] after Adele mentioned that her boyfriend was “always fucking turning the tables on me.”[3] Speaking of the initial concept for the song, Tedder said:

I was trying to digest what chord changes and voicings would work for her and after about three hours of chasing that kind of stuff, I ditched it and thought ‘to hell with this, I am going to write something that I want to hear.’ I came up with the opening piano sequence and when Adele walked in, I had the concept of ‘Turning Tables.’ I thought it was interesting, it felt connected—‘Chasing Pavements,’ ‘Turning Tables,’ two completely odd, non sequitur statements.

I also had the opening line, ‘Close enough to start a war, all that I have is on the floor.’ I had no idea about the breakup with the boyfriend, but then when she heard the lyric, she said it was literally what she was going through and so we made the song autobiographical.[4]

Their initial session lasted only three hours, but by the second day, a demo for “Turning Tables” had been completed, with Adele having recorded vocals and Tedder having added piano and drum programming.[4] The song’s demo had given Tedder goosebumps and reduced Adele to tears.[4][5] Tedder expanded on the song’s emotional impact in an interview with Notion magazine:

It’s easy to look back at your most successful singles and call them your favourites, but I knew there was something special when we came up with ‘Turning Tables.’ After we worked on the song I went back to my hotel room in London and I texted her saying, ‘I’m listening to your demo and I’m getting choked up.' She said, ‘I’ve been crying my eyes out for the last 20 minutes.’ We both thought we’d nailed it. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t a radio hit. In a perfect world, the two would coincide. Most artists would be lying if they didn’t say that was the goal.[6]

After writing “Turning Tables,” Adele initially thought the song should be given to her former BRIT School classmate Leona Lewis, who had written her breakthrough single “Bleeding Love” with Tedder.[7]


“Turning Tables” is a pop ballad with a soulful sound that lasts four minutes and 10 seconds. John Murphy of musicOMH recognized the single as a “fragile piano ballad which really shows off Adele’s wonderful voice to its best effect.”[8] According to the digital sheet music published by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, “Turning Tables” is written in the key of C minor and set in common time, with 78 beats per minute. Adele’s vocal range spans from the low note of G3 to the high note of C5.[9] 

Lyrically, the song speaks of a domestic dispute where its narrator assumes a defensive stance against a manipulative ex-lover.[10] Reconciling herself with the termination of a contentious relationship, she vows emotional distance to shield herself from future heartbreak. Bryan Boyd of The Irish Times likened the singer to 1980s Welsh rocker Bonnie Tyler in delivering the vocals with a mixture of anger, pain and pathos.[11] According to Paste magazine, cinematic strings “serve as fitting counterpoint to [the song’s] heartbroken, hollowed-out lyrics.”[12]


Following the success of “Rolling in the Deep” and “Someone Like You,” XL Recordings initially opted to release “Rumour Has It” as the third single from 21, eventually scrapping it in favor of “Set Fire to the Rain.” Shortly after this decision, it was revealed that “Rumour Has It” and “Turning Tables” would be released simultaneously in the UK with a probable back-to-back release in the United States.[13]

On November 5, 2011, “Rumour Has It” and “Turning Tables” were both sent to mainstream radio in the UK. On December 14, 2011, “Turning Tables” was released as a standalone single in Italy. The song was also released in parts of Australia due to its popularity. Following the 54th Annual Grammy Awards, Ryan Tedder confirmed that “Rumour Has It” and “Turning Tables” would be the fourth and fifth singles, respectively.[14] After the release of “Rumour Has It,” it was reaffirmed that “Turning Tables” would be the fifth, and most likely final, single from the album.​​​​​​[15] Following the Grammys, Adele’s manager Jonathan Dickins revealed that “Rumour Has It” would be the fourth and final single from the album, implying the US release of “Turning Tables” had been cancelled.[1]

During the summer of 2012, “Turning Tables” and “I’ll Be Waiting” both received unofficial airplay on several US radio stations due to listener demand for new Adele music.[16] In 2013, Digital Spy listed “Turning Tables” as one of their “19 Pop Singles That Should Have Been,” noting that, though 21​​​​​​ didn’t need any further promotion, the lack of an unofficial release for “Turning Tables” was a disappointment.[17]


Critical reception[]

“Turning Tables” received acclaim from music critics. Ian Walker of the website AbsolutePunk commented that the song “contains some of the album’s greatest vocal moments, further cementing Adele’s reputation as a competent vocalist showing no signs of stopping.”[18] A writer from the Daily Herald said that Adele sounds “epic” on the song.[19]

Entertainment Weekly’s Leah Greenblatt found a “scorned-woman balladry” in the song.[20] Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune found a “piano-based melancholy” in the song.[21] A reviewer of HauteThought wrote that “Adele’s natural ease and original tone shines in ‘Turning Tables.’ The song allows her to explore her upper register without ignoring the lower, soulful sound she always seems able to create.”[22]

Lily Moayeri stated that, on the “barely contained ‘Turning Tables,’ Adele lets forth her formidable lungpower.”[23] Ryan Reed of Paste called the single “tearjerking,”[12] while Margaret Wappler of the Los Angeles Times labelled the song as “softly sentimental.”[24]

Chart performances[]

“Turning Tables” debuted at its peak of number 63 on the US Billboard Hot 100 for the issue dated May 7, 2011. The next week, the song dropped 21 places to number 85 and became the biggest fall of the week. The single stayed on the chart fot a total of three weeks and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for selling over 500,000 digital copies.[25] As of May 2015, “Turning Tables” has sold 883,000 digital downloads in the US alone.[26]

On the Canadian Hot 100, the song debuted at number 60 for the issue dated May 7, 2011. It fell to number 91 the next week, becoming the biggest fall of the week.[27]

“Turning Tables” was certified gold by Music Canada for selling over 40,000 digital copies of the song. In the UK, it entered the singles chart at its peak of number 62 on May 14, 2011. On May 21, 2011, “Turning Tables” dropped to number 80 before falling off the chart the next week. On September 17, 2011, the song re-entered the UK Singles Chart at number 68.[28]

It was more successful on the Belgium Ultratip singles chart, where it reached number two in Wallonia[29] and number four in Flanders.[30] “Turning Tables” debuted at number nine on the Italian Singles Chart on January 19, 2012. After three weeks on the chart, the song reached its peak of number eight on February 16, 2012.

Music video and live performances[]

Prior to the cancellation of “Turning Tables” as an international single, a live video of Adele’s performance from Live at the Royal Albert Hall was released on her official Vevo account. It was released simultaneously with the music video for “Set Fire to the Rain.”

“Turning Tables,” which Adele stated she was “really looking forward to” performing live[31], was part of the setlist of the Adele Live tour. “Turning Tables” was also performed during many of the promotional appearances Adele made for 21, including her shows at the Tabernacle, the Walmart Soundcheck, AOL Sessions, InDemand, VH1 Unplugged, QTV, and the iTunes Festival. She also performed it on the Late Show with David Letterman, Live from the Artists Den, and The Jonathan Ross Show.

Her performance at Largo[32], which included “Turning Tables,” was released on the Target deluxe edition of 21.

Covers and usage in media[]

Gwyneth Paltrow covered “Turning Tables” in the second season of the American musical comedy-drama series Glee. Her version was released as a single, peaking at #66 on the US and Canadian Hot 100 charts.​​​​

In 2011, Ryan Tedder, who co-wrote the song with Adele, covered the song with his band OneRepublic at Denver’s Acoustic Christmas, a charity concert hosted by all Colorado artists.[33]

The song was also featured in the season 6 episode of Criminal Minds entitled “Coda.”[34]


Weekly charts[]

Chart (2011–12) Peak


Australia (ARIA) 34
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders) 4
Belgium (Ultratip Wallonia) 2
Canada (Canadian Hot 100) 60
Israel (Media Forest) 3
Italy (FIMI) 8
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40) 15
Netherlands (Mega Single Top 100) 45
South Korea International Singles (Gaon) 62
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company) 62
US Billboard Hot 100 63
US Billboard Latin Pop Songs 38


Region Certification Sales/shipments
Australia (ARIA) Gold 35,000^
Brazil (ABPD) Gold 50,000*
Canada (Music Canada) Gold 40,000^
Italy (FIMI) Platinum 30,000*
United States (RIAA) Gold 500,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Release history[]

Region Date Format Label
United Kingdom November 5, 2011 Mainstream radio XL Recordings
Italy December 14, 2011 Airplay



  • Adele – songwriting, vocals
  • Ryan Tedder – songwriting
  • Jim Abbiss – producer, mixer
  • Neil Cowley – piano
  • Ian Dowling – mixer
  • Chris Elliot – string arrangement
  • Boguslaw Kostecki, Bruce White, Caroline Dale, Cathy Thompson, Chris Laurence, Chris Worsey, David Daniels, Emlyn Singleton, Jackie Shave, Julian Leaper, Patrick Kiernan, Peter Lale, Rachel Stephanie Bolt, Rita Manning, Stephen Morris, Tom Pigott-Smith, Warren Zielinski – strings


Close enough to start a war
All that I have is on the floor
God only knows what we’re fighting for
All that I say, you always say more

I can’t keep up with your turning tables
Under your thumb, I can’t breathe…

So, I won’t let you close enough to hurt me
No, I won’t rescue you to just desert me
I can’t give you the heart you think you gave me
It’s time to say goodbye
To turning tables
To turning tables

Under haunted skies, I see you
Ooh, where love is lost, your ghost is found
I braved a hundred storms to leave you
As hard as you try, no, I will never be knocked down

I can’t keep up with your turning tables
Under your thumb, I can’t breathe…

So, I won’t let you close enough to hurt me
No, I won’t rescue you to just desert me
I can’t give you the heart you think you gave me
It’s time to say goodbye
To turning tables
Turning tables

Next time, I’ll be braver
I’ll be my own saviour
When the thunder calls for me

Next time I’ll be braver
I’ll be my own saviour
Standing on my own two feet

I won’t let you close enough to hurt me
No, I won’t rescue you to just desert me
I can’t give you the heart you think you gave me
It’s time to say goodbye
To turning tables

To turning tables, ooh
Turning tables, yeah
Turning, ohh...


  1. 1.0 1.1
  3. 3.0 3.1
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3
  5. 5.0 5.1
  12. 12.0 12.1
  34. Adele: The Biography