This piano ballad was written by Adele with Bruno Mars along with his Smeezingtons production colleagues Philip Lawrence and Ari Levine. The English singer told i-D
: "I've never sung so hard in me whole life. Can you imagine the fun me and Bruno had making that?"
Many of the 25 tracks are love songs. Adele described them to Zane Lowe as focusing on "overcoming obstacles in relationships." She added, "And that's actually the best feeling in the world. I've never really had that. I'm also super fascinated by going from loving someone so much to hating them. That's what 'All I Ask' is."
Adele told The New York Times the story of this emotional, piano-driven song. "It's, 'Let's not go out on a bad note,'" she explained. "That's not about my relationship now. It's not about any specific relationships that I've had. I wrote that with Bruno Mars, and we were, like, 'Let's just [expletive] go for it.' We're both a bit [expletive] soppy, let's just [expletive] write the soppiest ballad that we could possibly write together. And it's a lovely song."
"And I think that line - 'It matters how it ends' - is obviously for me and all of my friends," Adele continued. "That's what we always say when something's about to happen. It matters how this ends, how we get out of this one - whether it be a relationship, a night out, watching a film, whatever. It matters how everything ends because that's how you remember it."
Adele performed this song at the Grammy Awards in 2016 backed by Greg Phillinganes on piano. She was introduced by the song's co-writer Bruno Mars.
Speaking on New York radio show Cubby & Carolina Bermudez In The Morning, Bruno Mars detailed writing this song with Adele. "She walks into the studio, she's got all this attitude, she's a diva, she's like, 'I don't want to do this. I don't like that,'" he recalled of his first impression of the English star. "And then as soon as we hit a couple chords that she liked, we started rolling, and that's where we got that song from".
"She's incredible," Mars continued. "There was a moment when she was singing in the booth, and I'm not exaggerating at all and the water was vibrating… like you know that scene in Jurassic Park. She's got some pipes on her, and she's just a superstar."
Bruno Mars told Rolling Stone how he and Adele disagreed over one line in the second verse, where Adele sings, "Take me by the hand while we do what lovers do."
"We were aiming for that big, diva, ballad thing – that's what I envisioned," he recalled. "'Lovers'? I don't know if anybody really says 'lovers,'" 'Yeah, we're lovers. This is my lover.' I was like, 'Should we rethink that?' But [Adele] was so gangster about it. She was like, 'Nope. That's what it has to be.' And she was right."
"It's this grand word that makes the song bigger because no one says it," he added. "Because nobody talks like that, it pops out. It's not 'what boyfriends-and-girlfriends do' - it's this over-the-top 'lovers.' Sometimes I play it on the piano, and I look forward to singing that part. It's f--king perfect ... Don't try to be cool. Let it be what it wants to be."