If she’s not sad, will we lis­ten?

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - words ian bur­rell

SINCE she last re­leased a record, Adele has been cry­ing a lot. She went back­stage to meet Fleet­wood Mac’s Ste­vie Nicks and, over­whelmed in the pres­ence of one of her idols, burst into a bout of great snotty sobs. She went to the Os­cars and, as Bar­bra Streisand per­formed The Way We Were, she was again re­duced to tears. News of the suc­cess in the Gram­mys of her last al­bum 21 was an­other trig­ger for the wa­ter­works. Th­ese are very dif­fer­ent tears from the ones that in­spired her al­bum 21, the 30 mil­lion-sell­ing, six-Grammy win­ning, emo­tional roller­coaster that marked her as one of the great voices of her gen­er­a­tion. It was a heart­break al­bum, as was its pre­de­ces­sor, 19, the cut-through release which also won two Gram­mys. She won’t be writ­ing any more of those. “It ain’t worth feel­ing like that again,” she told i-D mag­a­zine re­cently. “I was very sad and very lonely.”

The fear she must now face, fol­low­ing the much-an­tic­i­pated release yes­ter­day of

25, is whether the mil­lions of fans who shared the pain that poured from her Sharpie pen into a Mole­sk­ine notepad for the lyrics to 21 will find it harder to em­pathise with a wealthy young woman in a steady re­la­tion­ship and be­sot­ted with her three-year-old son.

“Do you think ev­ery­one will be dis­ap­pointed that I’m happy?” she asked a re­porter from Rolling Stone. “Will my fans be dis­ap­pointed in me that I can’t fix their bro­ken hearts with a song that is bro­ken­hearted? I don’t want to dis­ap­point them. But at the same time, I can’t write a sad record, like, for ev­ery­one else. That’s not a real record, un­less I am sad.” She sug­gested that: “My fans will be like, ‘Babe! Please! Get di­vorced!’ ”

Those who have heard 25 de­tect a change of mu­si­cal di­rec­tion, tak­ing her closer to the up­lift­ing sounds of con­tem­po­rary pop, with less of the soul and blue­grass in­flu­ences ap­par­ent in her ear­lier re­leases. Yet there is, at present, no

sign what­ever of dis­ap­point­ment among the fan base.

Hello, the first sin­gle from the al­bum, is the sub­ject of such a buzz that it is smash­ing all mu­sic in­dus­try records. Hav­ing been tri­alled in an ad break dur­ing The X Fac­tor last month, the video be­came the fastest mu­sic video to reach 100 mil­lion views and is now near­ing 250 mil­lion. The song sold more than 1.1 mil­lion dig­i­tal units in its first week, in an era when fans sup­pos­edly no longer pay for mu­sic.

Ahead of the release of 25, she gave a con­cert at Ra­dio City Mu­sic Hall, “Adele Live in New York City”, and, on launch day she starred in a one-hour BBC One spe­cial,

Adele at the BBC.

The al­bum has been a long time com­ing – she was 25 when she started it and is now 27 – but de­spite the enor­mous lev­els of an­tic­i­pa­tion, Adele ap­pears to have re­gained some author­ity over her life. That was not the case in 2011 when her voice gave up on her. She had to can­cel her Amer­i­can tour.

“I cried a lot. But cry­ing is really bad for your vo­cal cords too,” she told Vogue af­ter­wards.

Adele’s life seemed out of her con­trol – a dis­tress­ing feel­ing for an artist who likes to be “the boss of ev­ery­thing” in her pro­fes­sional life, with acute at­ten­tion to de­tail and qual­ity con­trol.

A Bos­ton-based sur­geon re­moved a polyp from her throat and she has since added four notes to the range of her mez­zoso­prano. So if she is weep­ing now, it is partly from a sense of re­lief. It is also, it seems fair to as­sume, from a feel­ing of dis­be­lief. Adele, who ref­er­enced her big city sur­round­ings in early sin­gles Home­town Glory and Chas­ing

Pave­ments, has never dis­guised her up­bring­ing in some of Lon­don’s poorer post­codes. She once styled her­self “Delly from the Block”. Her ac­cent is in­vari­ably de­scribed as cock­ney, and her lib­eral use of pro­fan­ity caused a blush­ing Vogue to de­clare: “Adele also has one of the great dirty mouths of her gen­er­a­tion.”

She has as­cribed her loud and “bol­shie” de­meanour to grow­ing up along­side the ex­tended fam­ily of her mother, Penny, an artis­tic fur­ni­ture maker/masseuse/ poly­math who had Adele Lau­rie Blue Ad­kins at 18 and was ap­par­ently will­ing to take her to con­certs from the age of three. That was about the time that Adele’s fa­ther walked out. A year later she started singing.

When the Spice Girls-lov­ing Adele was 11, she moved with her mother from north-east Lon­don (“Tot­ten­ham is my mind, body and soul,” she still sings in the 25 track River Lea) to West Nor­wood, south Lon­don, where she dis­cov­ered R&B groups such as Des­tiny’s Child; that group’s star, Bey­oncé Knowles, has since be­come one of her nu­mer­ous ad­mir­ers.

As a teenager she stud­ied the singing styles of blues and jazz greats Etta James and Ella Fitzger­ald and won a place at the Brit School for per­form­ing arts near Croy­don. She was a joker who spent lunchtimes with Jessie J and Kate Nash, both now suc­cess­ful singers, and Laura Dock­rill, the poet and chil­dren’s au­thor.

She didn’t hang out with fel­low Brit alumna Amy Wine­house, but was in­spired to pick up a gui­tar and craft songs by Wine­house’s al­bum Frank.

In the video for Hello, Adele’s per­for­mance sug­gests her drama classes were not in vain, even if she once de­scribed her­self as “the worst ac­tress of all time”. The video was made by prize-win­ning film-maker Xavier Dolan, and Adele cries in that too.

She also claims to hate the world of the red car­pet but, in the next breath, re­veals her diva qual­i­ties: “I love a bit of drama.” In re­la­tion­ship rows she will de­scend into a sullen “silent treat­ment”. She doesn’t read books, which makes the elo­quence of her song­writ­ing all the more re­mark­able.

From her ear­li­est days in the spot­light, Adele talked of her hunger for “set­tling down”. She now lives in Hove, West Sus­sex, with her boyfriend Si­mon Ko­necki, an in­vest­ment banker turned char­ity boss, their son An­gelo and a dachshund.

Her pri­vate life has be­come a sub­ject for tabloid snoop­ers, and last year she won dam­ages against a pic­ture agency af­ter pa­parazzi tracked and pho­tographed her tak­ing An­gelo to play­group. She has ac­knowl­edged that her in­tro­spec­tive song­writ­ing means peo­ple could think she “did ask for” spec­u­la­tion about her per­sonal life. Be­com­ing a celebrity has led to press cov­er­age not just of her “smoky green eyes” and baroque dress sense but also of her body shape: “Since I was a teenager I’ve been a size 14 or 16, some­times 18,” she told The Ob­server in 2008. “And it’s never been an is­sue in any of the re­la­tion­ships I’ve had.”

She didn’t get on with Blur’s Da­mon Al­barn in a failed col­lab­o­ra­tion for 25. (He de­scribed her as “in­se­cure” when she asked him about par­ent­hood.)

But she’s hardly short of fa­mous fans, with Kanye West blog­ging “This shit is dope!” about Chas­ing Pave­ments, and Ju­lia Roberts writ­ing her an ode in En­ter­tain­ment Weekly.

Adele’s man­age­ment reck­ons there are a good 17 albums in her yet. What’s next – “30”? Seven years ago she was asked how she’d be at that mile­stone. She pre­dicted a nice “fam­ily house”, mar­riage and a first baby. She said she’d be writ­ing songs for other peo­ple.

But she won’t be al­lowed to rest that lar­ynx so soon and, now that she’s cry­ing tears of joy, nor would she want to.


1 Rolling Stone mag­a­zine this month 2 An im­age for Adele’s new al­bum, 25 3 Adele sings at the Os­cars in Los An­ge­les this year

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