Adele Laurie Blue Adkins or known more simply as “Adele” is only in her early
twenties but she has already had two critically acclaimed albums – 19 which debuted at number one in 2009 and most recently 21 which has
earned her much respect and a staggering number of listeners from a hugely varied age group. A little bit Sixties, a little bit street and a whole lot of sorrow-tinged introspection, Adele’s style is often too slippery to define. She cites Ella Fitzgerald and Nashville as influences but also gives a nod to the Spice Girls. The end result is a smoky, jazz-infused vocal that is full of soul and anguish or can quickly change to thumping, fiery defiance although you always have the feeling that her heavily lined eyes are not quite dry.
Many of Adele’s songs appeal to a wide audience and some have criticized her for this as though this was a solely commercial calculation that renders her work less meaningful. I could not disagree more. Catchy, timely and different – like Amy Winehouse – Adele’s listeners run a wide chasm between those who are enjoying the various Adele mash-ups that are out there - to those who might prefer Starbucks but could be called upon to actually reference the vintage qualities they hear. If you haven’t heard “Chasing Pavements” or “Rolling in the Deep” (which is especially brilliant and an anthem of some kind) on the radio you must have been living underground since these songs especially have been unrelenting FM-darlings for some time and stay with you afterwards.
It is truly uncanny that someone so young has been able to effectively channel the type of pain that only comes with a piercing, battery-fluid laced heartache. Adele’s ability to take this emotion and set it to words and music that make it both palpable and recognizable to her listeners is part of her appeal. Not to get come over all Aristotelian on you– this is pop music, I get it – but here is someone who has understood the agony of love and reinterprets it so well in words and melody that ultimately, she makes us realize that we are not alone – or even unusual – in our own suffering. And she writes brilliant, modern lyrics that alternate between spiritually deep and the unremarkable; she’s a poet for our times.
Since Adele is both British-born and a graduate of the BRIT school for Performing Arts – facts which are shared with the late Amy Winehouse as well as her singing style – the press has often drawn comparisons between the two and recently began citing Adele as a natural heir to carry on this kind of jazz-influenced, emotive singing. But unlike Amy’s tragic persona Adele seems delightfully unmoved by her rise to fame and comes across as extremely down-to-earth, particularly in interviews; indeed, her honesty about her songwriting material is refreshing and believable and is bolstered by her famously cheerful sound-bite: “I don’t rely on my tits to have hits.”
If you are only going to sample one song, it has to be “Someone Like
You.” The simplicity of the gently nudging piano notes and the clarity and poignant wistfulness of her delivery makes this an unforgettable and haunting piece. Truly, this song should come with a warning. Be careful where you are when you listen for the first time as I was taken aback by how affected I was.
Both 19 and 21present a catalogue of experiences and mood pieces since each record corresponds to her age. There’s something unique to hear and experience with each subsequent listen and that is what is going to make Adele’s work timeless. Let me know what you think - enjoy!