In a world where publishing a book of pictures of yourself that you took yourself is considered high art and having a narcissistic personality disorder is a basic requirement in the entertainment industry, Adele is something different.
The woman who outsold Taylor Swift’s yearly sales in a week said, before her new album’s release, “I feel like I might be a year too late.”
She was laughably mistaken — she’s already got the top-selling album of 2015. No doubt she’s a great singer, but why is she doing so damn well — and why is her publicity tour getting so much more attention than anyone else’s?
It could be because hers is not false modesty, which is why it’s so appealing. The biggest-selling artist of our time is just, you know, a really cool, genuine woman.
Adele has only ever used her music and her personality to get to where she is. On stage, it’s her and a microphone. She doesn’t need back-up dancers, or star-spangled costumes with the legs cut out, or a pair of assless chaps. It’s just not her style.
“I’ve never seen magazine covers and seen music videos and been like, ‘I need to look like that if I want to be a success,'” she said in a 60 Minutes interview back in February 2012.
“Never — I don’t want to be some skinny mini with my tits out. I really don’t want to do it. And I don’t want people confusing what it is that I’m about.”
Not that she’d ever denigrate anyone who is a “skinny mini with her tits out”. She recently said that if she were to assemble a Taylor Swift-style “squad”, she’d want Rihanna on it. “She’s just life itself, isn’t she?” she told Rolling Stone.
Three years ago, she told Rolling Stone, “I don’t make music for eyes; I make music for ears.”
And she didn’t really feel like making any music for quite some time. She doesn’t hurriedly release a new album every year to stay on top.
The new one, 25, comes four years after 2011’s 21. She’s now 27, with a partner and a child. She took time off from music to look after her son and be with her partner Simon Konecki. She baked, she took Angelo to the zoo, she contemplated life after the tumult of her late teens and early 20s.
Adele was busy — enjoying her life. In stories about the interim period between 21 and 25, it’s as though Adele disappeared off the face of the earth, as if she was a hermit or a recluse. She wasn’t, though. She was doing lots of things that didn’t involve stages and red carpets, only no one noticed.
“I’ve been to every fucking park, every shop, every supermarket you could ever imagine,” she told Rolling Stone.
It was a full six months between writing the verses of Hello and perfecting its chorus.
Adele spent three years raising her son full-time, but now that she’s back at work, she gets questioned about how she juggles her career and her family — the kinds of questions male musicians are never asked.
Still, she responds gracefully to questions about whether she’s able to spend enough time with him.
“My son comes everywhere with me,” she told Matt Lauer on Today.
“We’re all good. We’re tight. He’s the first person I see in the morning, and the last person I see at night, and vice versa. So we’re all good. I make time for him like I always have.”
Before she embarked on her current publicity tour, Adele would be out and about with her son, with no entourage or security guards — and no one would recognise her.
“Maybe if I went out in full, done-up, hair-and-makeup drag [people would recognise me],” she told Rolling Stone. “Which it is: borderline drag! I’m not brave enough to do it.”
She’s gloriously lacking in the kind of egomania that infects much of a pop world in which Beyonce has a special temperature-controlled vault containing every picture of herself ever taken and Madonna posts pictures of Nelson Mandela with her album’s name hashtagged over the top.
Adele can’t even listen to her own songs. “I listen to my music for mixes, and to sign off on things once I’ve done them, but no way would I ever listen to my own music. That is so weird.”
She also finds it very odd to have been welcomed into the upper echelons of celebrity, where she shakes hands with Jay Z and meets the queen.
Watch Adele talking about meeting Jennifer Aniston… Post continues after video.
She dips in and out of that world easily, not letting it become her reality.
One of the most-commented upon things about Adele (apart from that voice) is the fact that she’s not skinny. She’s often said that she’s always bemused by how astounded everyone is that a larger woman could have such success.
“I like looking nice, but I always put comfort over fashion. I don’t find thin girls attractive; be happy and healthy. I’ve never had a problem with the way I look. I’d rather have lunch with my friends than go to a gym,” she said in 2011.
After Karl Lagerfeld called her “a little too fat” in 2012, she responded in a way that should have made him feel ashamed of himself.
“I’ve never wanted to look like models on the cover of magazines. I represent the majority of women and I’m very proud of that.”
Adele doesn’t religiously update her Instagram account with pouting selfies. And unlike many performers, she has never accepted any endorsement deals. A cosmetics company is probably dying to get her signature cat-eye on their product, but Adele’s never been about anything but her music.
It’s probably why there can only be one Adele.