Someone Like Adele
Adele Adkins MBE is a British singer whose style combines pop music, soul and R&B in a way that is so appealing that it has lead to worldwide success almost from the moment that her demo recordings were first posted to MySpace in 2006.
Born in Tottenham on May 5, 1988, Adele grew up in the shadow cast over the UK by the Spice Girls, and along with them, cites P!nk, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Aaliyah, The Cure, Dusty Springfield, Destiny's Child/Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill and Mary J. Blige as strong influences on her music. The result is something fairly unique: a young caucasian woman who sings with the force and eloquence of, say, Aretha Franklin in her heyday. A contemporary of Adele's, Joss Stone, performs similarly, but hasn't come as close to world domination (thus far) as Adele has. The late Amy Winehouse had a similar vocal power, near the same class as Adele's, and perhaps a bit rougher. Adele's voice is both soft and sharp, where Amy's voice was more husky. Joss' voice is very similar to Adele's but is a bit deeper.
Many of Adele's influences (those still living, at least) now consider Adele to be an influence of theirs!
As I write this, Adele's twenty-sixth birthday is tomorrow, and yet she has the world in her hip pocket. She is undoubtedly among the most successful recording artists in history and she's really only just begun.
Adele posted a three-song demo to MySpace Music in 2006 and it's been skyward ever since. The demo lead to a recording contract with XL Recordings, who immediately set the young ingenue to work recording her debut album.
The debut album, 19, was released on January 28, 2008. It lead to the release of four singles, all of which did quite well: "Hometown Glory" (2007), "Cold Shoulder", "Make You Feel My Love" and "Chasing Pavements" (all 2008), the latter of which was Adele's first major single to have an impact in America. 19 did phenomenally well, charting in the top ten in album sales in eight countries and to date has sold over seven million copies worldwide and netted Adele the Grammy Award for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. An elaborate tour, entitled "An Evening With Adele", followed the release and was a smashing success for all eighteen months it was on the road.
Should I give up?
Or should I just keep chasing pavements?
Following the end of the "An Evening With Adele" tour, Adele and her production team promptly began work on a follow-up album, eventually titled 21. 21 is, as of this writing, one of the most successful records of all time. It has won virtually every award for which it has been nominated. Its five singles have all been huge hits, a trend which doesn't seem likely to stop with any future releases. Those singles include the inescapable smash "Rolling in the Deep" (2010), "Someone Like You", "Set Fire to the Rain", "Rumour Has It" and "Turning Tables" (all 2011). "Rolling in the Deep" is one of those songs that will be used to typify the 2010s decade in future media, I am certain. The first time I heard it, I had no idea who Adele was and thought it may have been Joss Stone due to the similar (but possibly more powerful) voice. Then suddenly, it was everywhere: all over TV, in movies, on the radio, satellite radio and internet radio. It has nearly 500 million views on YouTube, to use a marker of success unique to the past ten years or so. It reached number one in five countries and the top ten in ten countries where Billboard keeps track of album sales. The big difference between "Rolling in the Deep" and any number of other successful songs is that it's actually a great song and wasn't made by a novelty act. It came on the heels of half a dozen previously successful singles and was followed by half a dozen more. And despite songs like this tending to define a musician's career, I have a feeling Adele will eclipse its success as her career progresses. I mean, really: the single she released after "Rolling", "Set Fire to the Rain", also won Adele a Grammy for Best Pop Solo Performance, just as "Rolling" had done the previous year. At the time of writing, she's won a grand total of nine Grammys over a span of five years. Most artists in mainstream genres don't win nine Grammys in their entire lifetimes, yet here Adele has done it again and again and again.
Fun fact: Rick Rubin (yes, that Rick Rubin) was the primary producer of 21.
In addition to having a voice that has the power to knock most people on their emotional asses, Adele also plays piano and bass guitar.
Following the 21 hoopla, Adele recorded the song "Skyfall" for the soundtrack of the James Bond film of the same name. Unlike the film, the song won an Oscar, for Best Original Song. It plays over the opening credits of the film and was, for me at least, more memorable than the film itself.
Never mind, I'll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you too
Don't forget me, I beg
I remember you said,
"Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead."
Adele's third album, 25, was released in late 2015, when she was 27. The lead single from it is "Hello".
One of Adele's more interesting qualities is that she doesn't conform to the standard air-brushed beanpole style of beauty dictated by fashion magazines and perpetuated by the entertainment industry. This, of course, has lead various sleazy creeps such as Karl Lagerfeld and Joan Rivers to label her "fat", which doesn't seem to bother Adele at all (rightly so). Even so, most media outlets refer to her as "plus-sized", but in the reality that the entertainment media refrains from existing in, Adele is just about the same size as any average woman. I, myself, think she's beautiful and would be great to cuddle with.
Also unusual for Adele is her closely guarded private life. When she had a baby in 2012, she refused to give its name to the press, stated she'd prefer to keep her children out of the spotlight, wanting them to grow up as normally as possible given their circumstances.
In 2011, Adele underwent surgery to remove a benign polyp on her vocal chords. This is a relatively common surgery for professional vocalists and it succeeded without complications. Adele resumed performing about five months following the surgery.
Adele was awarded the MBE by Prince Charles in December 2013, for services to music. She's one of the youngest people (25 at the time) to be so awarded.
Anyway—watch this space. With the impact Adele has had on music in recent years, she's not likely to go away anytime soon. In fact, her third album (to be titled 26?) is in the works as I write this.
I am by no means an aficionado of soul music or R&B, but I can't get enough of Adele's music. As a thirty-something white person, I realize that this is probably typical of my demographic. But that voice... it'll haunt you. In a good way!
- 19 (2008 / XL Recordings)
- 21 (2010 / XL Recordings)
- 25 (2015 / XL Recordings)
Also, don't miss Aretha Franklin covering Adele's "Rolling in the Deep", part of an album of covers she's releasing in 2015. If there any doubts that 70-something Aretha has still got it, this cover proves that she absolutely does.
Adele discography at Discogs.com