I don’t listen to music – or not in the way that most people do. I don’t take an active interest in new music; I don’t have a defined musical taste. I have three play lists by which I live my life: one for running, one for walking, and one to listen to when I want to cry. (The latter is possibly the most perverse).
My lack of active musical interest led me to a trip around Youtube in pursuit of a subject for this article. Eventually I had the bright idea of searching for performances from the recent Brit Awards: in this roundabout way I came across a video of Adele singing Someone Like You. She’s a fad of a moment, and this article is unoriginal in its praise, but I was absolutely floored. I watched the video on repeat for about an hour and proceeded to research and listen to pretty much every song that’s available from her new album 21.
At the end of the video of her singing live at the Brits, James Corden, the host, comments, ‘you can have all the dancers, the pyrotechnics and laser shows you want, but if you sound like that all you need is a piano’. I so heartily concur. The inspiration for many of her songs is taken from her breakup with her long-term boyfriend. Take It All, another hauntingly beautiful ballad was stripped down from its original form, conceived by her ex, to just the vocals post break-up. This theme of stripping songs back to their vocals occurs throughout: Adele’s cover of The Cure’s Love Song too cuts out the ‘noise’ and reveals touching lyrics. I think that is what I like so much about Adele. She’s just a woman with a voice, singing about her broken heart. I love the fact that in so many of her videoed live performances she isn’t dolled up to the nines: she almost seems to be making a point that she has no cultivated persona, she is her voice. It’s a return to a time when the musician’s voice was the most important thing, redolent of 1960’s soul, and iconic figures like Nina Simone.
Adele may not be the most innovative of 2011 artists, but she is certainly one of the most talented and most feeling. You only have to hear her voice cracking at the Brit Awards to know that she feels what she sings: she is the antithesis of the modern pop star, and for that, is conversely one of the most original artists out there.