In the 1990s, a british psychologist John Sloboda did a study where he asked people to name parts of songs that affected them or drove them to goosebumps, tears, etc, and then analyzed the properties of that music. He found that 18 of 20 of the songs contained "appoggiatura", defined by the article as:
An appoggiatura is a type of ornamental note that clashes with the melody just enough to create a dissonant sound. "This generates tension in the listener," said Martin Guhn, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia who co-wrote a 2007 study on the subject. "When the notes return to the anticipated melody, the tension resolves, and it feels good."Putting multiple appoggiaturas in a row creates and releases tension in the listener, and may eventually drive them to tears.
Adele's "Someone Like You" has small appoggiaturas throughout, but there is a point in the chorus where she modulates her pitch to create "mini-roller coasters of tension and resolution". Adele also has sincere lyrics and a soulful sound to help, too!
The article is fascinating and has examples of Adele's and other music that does this. To read it: Click here. Maybe you can write your own chart-busting emotional hit!