"Turning Tables"
Single by Adele
from the album 21
November 5, 2011 (UK)
December 14, 2011 (Italy)
2009; Sphere Studios (London)
Pop, soul
XL Recordings
Adele Adkins, Ryan Tedder
Jim Abbiss
Adele singles chronology
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21 track listing
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"Rumour Has It" "Don't You Remember"

"Turning Tables" is a song by English recording artist Adele and the last 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, whilst 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 5 November 2011 as fifth single from 21 along with "Rumour Has It." [1]

"Turning Tables" charted on number 63 on Billboard Hot 100 and number 60 on Canadian Hot 100 after it was performed by Gwyneth Paltrow on Fox's televison show, Glee. It also charted on number 81 in Australia and number 62 on UK Singles Chart. "Turning Tables" was also rumored to be the fourth single off of 21, following "Set Fire to the Rain" and preceding the rumored fifth single, "Rumour Has It"; however, it was replaced by "Rumour Has It" as the fourth single and was instead rumored to be the fifth single, although Jonathan Dickins confirmed that "Rumour Has It" was the fourth and final single from the album. [2] However, it was released as the fourth single in Italy and the fifth in the Netherlands. [1] Despite the cancellation of a single release, the song received radio airplay on top 40 mainstream radio in the United States, along with "I'll Be Waiting."

"Rumour Has It" was released as the song's B-side. The two were released simultaneously as singles. Although "Turning Tables" is considered a single, as it did receive official releases in select countries, it was only an unofficial single in the United States due to some radio airplay; however, an official release for the song in the United States was cancelled. [3] The only countries it received an official release in were the UK (on November 5, 2011, simultaneously with "Rumour Has It") and in Italy (on December 14, 2011). It was certified Gold in Canada and the United States despite not receiving an official release in either country; it was certified Platinum in Italy. [1]

Background and compositionEdit

"Turning Tables" was written by Adele and Ryan Tedder. The song was conceived following a confrontation with Adele's ex. In the studio, Adele had gotten upset and emotional that her ex had kept "turning the tables" on her during their fights, and Tedder used this idea as a concept for composing the song. He told NME that the idea came about within the first day of them being in the studio together, as the phrase reminded him of "Chasing Pavements." [4]

In an interview with Notion magazine, Tedder revealed that he and Adele had both become emotional during the songwriting session for "Turning Tables," stating:

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. [5]

Adele revealed to Radio Times that after writing this piano ballad, she originally thought that, "we should give it to Leona Lewis, 'Bleeding Love' is one of my favorite songs ever." Lewis was a classmate of Adele at the BRIT School for Performing Arts & Technology . [6]

According to the sheet music published on by Universal Music Publishing Group, "Turning Tables" is an Adult Alternative, Alternative Pop/Rock, Pop, Rock, and Neo-Soul song written in the key of C Minor. Adele's vocal range expands from the note of G3 to C5. It is written in the common time with 78 beats per minute.

Lyrically, the song describes the breakdown of a relationship and the tendency of one party to continuously twist the situation to his favour. The song is an understated piano-and-vocal ballad, stripped down to its most minimal elements, and towards the climax, swells into a "cinematic pop anthem laced with Broadway-worthy strings" that "serves as a fitting counterpoint to its heartbroken, hollowed-out lyrics." [1]


After the release of 21, several fans chose "Turning Tables" as one of the album's best and most heart-wrenching tracks. Following XL Recordings' decision to cancel the release of "Rumour Has It" in favor of "Set Fire to the Rain," 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.

On November 5, 2011, "Rumour Has It" and "Turning Tables" were both sent to mainstream radio in the UK. [7] On December 14, 2011, "Turning Tables" was released as a standalone single in Italy. [8] 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. [9]

After the release of "Rumour Has It", it was again confirmed that "Turning Tables" was to be the fifth and probably final single from the album. [10] Following the Grammys, Adele's manager Jonathan Dickins revealed that "Rumour Has It" would be the fourth and final single from the album, therefore cancelling the release of "Turning Tables" in the United States. [11] Despite this, a music video was released for "Turning Tables" prior to its planned release, and it did receive some airplay on various radio stations throughout the US. In late summer of 2012, the song received airplay on many radio stations, along with "I'll Be Waiting", due to a huge demand of new Adele music from fans and listeners. [12] Many fans consider the song a single from the album due to its heavy promotion and planned release.

In 2013, Digital Spy listed "Turning Tables" as one of their "19 Pop Singles That Should Have Been" and publicly declared that while 21 didn't need the extra promotion, the lack of an official release of the "heart-tugging ballad" in the United States was very disappointing. [13]


Critical receptionEdit

John Murphy in a review for 21 said, "Turning Tables is a fragile piano ballad which really shows off Adele's wonderful voice to its best effect - almost cracking with emotion at times, she really lives the lyrics." [1]

Chart performancesEdit

"Turning Tables" charted on number 63 on Billboard Hot 100 after it was performed by Gwyneth Paltrow on Fox's Glee. It charted on number 60 on Canadian Hot 100. It also charted on number 81 in Australia and number 62 on UK Singles Chart with 4,320 sales. [1]

Live performances, cover versions, and usage in mediaEdit

"Turning Tables", which Adele stated she was "really looking forward to" performing live [14], was part of the setlist on Adele's second tour, Adele Live. She performed it at various other venues, in addition to this, including Largo (where she performed an acoustic version with only vocals and piano), the Walmart Soundcheck, On Q With Jian Ghomeshi, Live from the Artists Den, the Tabernacle, and the Royal Albert Hall.

Usage in mediaEdit

The song was also featured in the season 6 episode of Criminal Minds entitled "Coda". [15]

Cover versionsEdit

Gwyneth Paltrow from the American musical comedy-drama series Glee, covered the song during the second season episode "A Night of Neglect". Glee's version of the song charted on number 75 on UK Singles Chart with 3,513 copies. The Reverb Junkie sampled the music in their track "Can't Stop Turning Tables" from their forthcoming remix album, Feat. Vocea României (The Voice — Romania) season one contestant Oana Radu performed "Turning Tables" during the auditions and made all four judges (Smiley, Loredana Groza, Horia Brenciu and Marius Moga) turn their chairs in her favor. All four praised her vocal performance and compared her both visually and vocally to Adele with her choosing the latter one as mentor. [1]

Ryan Tedder, who co-wrote the song with Adele, covered the song at a OneRepublic concert in 2011. [16]


Weekly chartsEdit

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 historyEdit

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

Credits Edit


  • 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
Oooh, 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
Turning tables, yeah
Turning, ohh...


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