At a time when we have lost many popular female singers including such greats as Etta James, Teena Marie, Amy Winehouse, and Whitney Houston, a young singer/songwriter has emerged from relative obscurity to win the musical hearts and minds of many new fans worldwide.
Offering the raspiness of a Janis Joplin or Bonnie Raitt, yet with a polish worthy of Lisa Stansfield, she has become the latest iteration of blue-eyed soul.
Adele Laurie Blue Adkins, now widely known simply as Adele, was born in north London to a single mother on May 5, 1988. During her childhood the two moved about the edges of London under modest circumstances with little fanfare, though Adele did show musical aptitude at an early age. In 2006 a friend of hers posted a demonstration of her talent onto Myspace that led to her discovery by a professional agent.
She released her first album in early 2008 at the age of 19 appropriately titled 19, and became an immediate hit with the British public. Her reception in the United States moved on a slower trajectory. Finally, after much play of her video “Chasing Pavements” on VH1 and a musical guest spot on the same Saturday Night Live episode that featured Sarah Palin, her recognition and popularity in the states began to soar. In 2009 Adele won two Grammy awards in the categories of Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance as well as being nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.
Her second album was released in January 2011 and was titled 21, again for her age. This release was greeted with popular acclaim, especially in the UK where many chart records were broken. Adele became the first living musical artist to achieve two top five hits in both the Singles Chart and Albums Chart simultaneously since the Beatles in 1964. By September the album had sold over 3 million copies and has gone on to become the best-selling album of the 21st century to date.
Critics who had claimed her strength was only in her captivating alto vocals were forced to concede her talents as a songwriter and as a master of diverse musical styles. Suspicion that she would fade away as a one-hit wonder for her song “Chasing Pavements” all but disappeared.
In 2011 Adele began a sold out North American tour. Due to inordinate stress on her ailing vocal cords, she had to cancel a couple of shows in October to take rest. She did manage a performance in London at the spectacular Royal Albert Hall (Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall DVD) where she commented on her affliction. In November she underwent surgery on her hemorrhaging cords in Massachusetts.
She would not perform publicly again until the 2012 Grammy Awards on February 12, 2012, when she nailed a performance of her hit “Rolling in the Deep.” On this evening, guests, presenters, performers, nominees, awardees, and viewers alike battled their stunned disbelief and sorrow over the only hours-old news of Whitney Houston’s sudden passing. With all due respect, the evening continued forward to honor the musical excellence of the previous year. Adele won all six of the categories for which she was nominated including Song of the Year and Record of the Year. If there seems to be an echo, there is. Beyonce, a major fan of Adele’s, won six Grammy awards at the previous year’s celebration.
Before Adele could catch a breath, it was time for the Brit Awards (the British equivalent to the Grammy) held at London’s O2 Arena on February 21, 2012. Here, she once again performed her hit single “Rolling in the Deep,” giving her concerned British fans the reassurance that her voice was in fine shape following her surgery. She won two of her three nominations. She lost Best Single to the One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful.” An emotional George Michael presented her with the Brit for Best British Album of the Year for 21. Perhaps the most interesting “Adele moment” of the evening came when she was presented with the award for Best British Female Solo Artist of the Year. When Kylie Minogue handed her the Brit, Adele, never shy to speak her mind, quipped, “Thank you so much. I feel like a drag queen next to Kylie. It’s been an amazing year and I want to thank my record company for letting me be the kind of artist I wanted to be.”
Given all of the acclaim, the ongoing accolades and the trophies, it would appear that Adele would need a warehouse or a museum in which to store them. The recognition comes well-deserved. Adele’s voice, her stage presence, her song-writing acumen, and her determined perseverance, all coupled with her “rags to riches” rise, make her the enviable woman of the year.
Her best-selling albums, 19 and 21 are both available at the Birmingham Public Library as is the DVD, Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall. Check these out for free and discover the artistry and diversity of Adele.
Notice that her newest award-winning hit “Rolling in the Deep” starts with a steady, tribal-sounding beat and suddenly ramps up to a cascading joy that will make you rise to your feet in exultation. The gorgeous ballad, “Turning Tables” will leave you mesmerized in romantic melancholy. The songs “Set Fire to the Rain” and “Someone Like You” will call to mind the beautiful piano work of Coldplay. Her mastery of many styles is loaded with soul and rhythm and blues, but also contains touches of gospel (“Take It All”) and of country (“Don’t You Remember” and “One and Only”) as well.
If you have ever loved the pop sounds of Lulu, Dusty Springfield, Mama Cass Elliot, or Duffy, you would do well to discover Adele.
Adele Laurie Blue Adkins, or simply . . .
Submitted by David Blake