Adele, a pop star for our times
It has been a hell of a year for Adele. Since she released her second album “21″ back in January, it has been selling and selling and selling some more. She’s broken all sorts of chart records – the first …
It has been a hell of a year for Adele. Since she released her second album “21″ back in January, it has been selling and selling and selling some more. She’s broken all sorts of chart records – the first act since The Beatles to do this, the first act since Madonna to do that, the first act since Bob Marley to do the other – as she’s gone on to sell well over 3.5 million copies worldwide of “21″, which is a huge number for an album shy of three months on release. At a time when every act is struggling to make the sales grade, Adele is hitting all the right notes. Sure, she won’t make the same numbers as acts did in years gone by, but absolutely no-one is making those sort of numbers anymore. It’s a new age, a new reality, so Adele’s tallies are worth looking at.
Of course, much of Adele’s success is down to the artist herself, that show-stopping voice and the time taken on the album. While her debut album “19″ was a fine introduction to her talents (and she was a great value interviewee when she was selling that one too), album number two is Adele’s musical talents on steroids. I’ve listened to “21″ quite a lot more than I expected to over the last few months as those brilliant, seductive pop-soul songs about joy and heartbreak keep bringing me back round again. The playing and arrangements are superb (you get the bang of a big recording budget from the record the moment you put it on) and the album just works as a piece of art. Radio stations have been hammering the big tunes from it for quite some time and it’s probably one of those rare cases when punters are finding even more to dig when they check out the album.
Then, there’s the light touch of her record label XL Records. We’ve written before about Richard Russell’s label and how they do things. Instead of signing a raft of would-be next big things and spreading the label’s resources and bets over a large number of acts, Russell concentrates on doing a handful of releases really well. It takes nerves of steel and a firm belief in your A&R abilities to stick with this approach, but when it hits pay-dirt sales-wise, as in Adele and The xx, the results are astounding. It will be interesting to see if this will also apply to forthcoming, probably more challenging releases from Tyler, the Creator and Jai Paul (I doubt if Tony Fenton will be hammering tunes from either album). She’s managed by Jonathan Dickins, an old acquaintance of mine from Warner Music, so it’s great to see that (a) he’s still very much on the go, (b) he jumped ship into the management game like so many A&R men I knew and (c) he’s hit the jackpot with Adele.
Moreover, in addition to the songs and the backroom team, Adele’s authenticity shows that it’s still possible for an act to come to the fore on the back of talent and a bunch of well-executed songs. She hasn’t played the usual gimmicky pop star game of flirtation and titilation, which has become the norm in campaigns to get and keep acts in the public eye. Instead, she just looks people in the eye and says what’s what. She had a great retort in a recent Guardian piece when the interviewee asked her about the exes who’ve informed the misery and pain in her songs. “Who cares?” she says. “Nobody famous, just old boyfriends. I don’t date celebrities. I ain’t facking Taylor Swift, dyouknowhatImean?” Whatever we want from our pop stars in 2011, we sure don’t want “facking Taylor Swift”.