Adele’s Grammys antics had sour tang of the one-trick pony

Adele produces music for cruise ships and her Grammys 2017 speech reeked of attention seeking

Award winners Adele and Beyoncé celebrate motherhood during their respective acceptance speeches at the Grammys. Video: Reuters

 

As sure as night follows day, you can count on Adele to, whether by accident or design, dominate the post-awards headlines. It usually happens for many reasons: a multi-gong haul, for creaming the emotions of a global audience with her voice, and for a general sense of keeping it real.

At this weekend’s Grammys, she was taking no chances. On the slim chance that you missed it, a recap: first, her trademark stage fright got the better of her as she flubbed her George Michael tribute and stopped mid-song after hitting a cough-and-you’ll-miss-it bum note. “Oh I f**ked this up, I need to start again. I’m sorry, I know this is live TV, and sorry for swearing, but I can’t mess this up for him.” Like derailing an entire performance isn’t messing it up, but hey. The crowd went bananas because “integrity”.

Later on, Adele broke one of her five new Grammys in two, Mean Girls-style, before proffering one half to the person she thought was the Grammy’s rightful owner, Beyoncé. “What the f**k does she need to do to win?” intoned Adele from the stage.

I’m a huge fan of swearing; an advocate of popping the F-firework as and when necessary. And this is certainly a magnanimous gesture on Adele’s part. But it reeked of attention seeking.

Somehow I was irritated, a brief flash of “it’s not always all about you” settling on the skin. For the quickest of moments, there was a faint air of contrivance. Her latest award ceremony antics had the sour tang of the one-trick pony, in contrast to the realness that has been the scaffolding to Adele’s career. Less accident, more design.

This down-home shtick has been Adele’s stock in trade for years. And as USPs go, the jarring incongruity between her lush, cinematic voice and the take-her-as-she-is vibe is an arresting one.

It was, at one time, a glorious thing to behold. Because of it, Adele has become impervious the slings and arrows of an industry that refashions Gaga’s artistic originality as weirdness, and Taylor Swift’s confessionalism as “watch out, boys”.

I’ve long admired Adele’s frankness, her unwillingness to play the same game that whitewashes everyone else. Against the visual muzak of the usual pop neophyte, it was eye-popping, and couldn’t have been ignored. You don’t get many pop artists who will be themselves quite that much. Oh my, the raw soreness in those break-up songs. The onstage tears, the shakes, the emotional seeping. What wasn’t to love?

But here’s the thing. That wilful authenticity, that vulnerability, has endeared her to millions of youngsters who seem happy enough to overlook the fact that her buttery balladry is, for all intents and purposes, music for cruise ships.

There’s something decidedly uncool, dull and bloodless about Adele’s oeuvre

She’s been hailed as making middle-aged music cool for young people, but to my mind, there’s something decidedly uncool, dull and bloodless about Adele’s oeuvre. The only thing extraordinary about it now is its uncommon popularity. That, and how so few ever appear to call her out on it.

In any case, Grammys night was the tipping point where the entire package – the swearing, the sixth-form excitability, the “oi oi saveloy” persona – started to become a bit boring. It’s wrong, of course, to call someone out simply for being what they inherently are, but it’s downright naive to assume that millions in the bank and a decade on the A-list hasn’t changed Adele one single grot.

Fine, she abhors the paparazzi, the fame and the Hello! magazine photoshoots. Still, people change in the space of a decade. Artists who shift millions of records, doubly so. They need to adapt and evolve in order to survive and flourish artistically, and there has been a curious lack of either on Adele’s part. She isn’t for budging. People love that about her. I don’t.

Well, except for one thing: in 2012, Adele noted with admirable conviction that she “didn’t want to be some skinny mini with my tits out”. So far, so predictable, except last year she posted a selfie of herself on Instagram, sweating herself into agony in a gym in a bid to slim down.

Adele: ‘That wilful authenticity, that vulnerability, has endeared her to millions who seem happy to overlook the fact that her buttery balladry is music for cruise ships’
Adele: ‘That wilful authenticity, that vulnerability, has endeared her to millions who seem happy to overlook the fact that her buttery balladry is music for cruise ships’

She’s given up alcohol, coffee and cigarettes too, leaving swearing as her one final vice. There’s something slightly disheartening in this, from the woman who once put a defiant two fingers up to all sorts of conformity.

Jack White once famously said: “Adele selling 20 million records? That would not have happened if Amy Winehouse was alive.”

An interesting posit, and certainly Adele and Winehouse invite parallels: the rawness, the vulnerability, the clawing back to one’s former, pre-fame self. The latter paid far too high a price for that.

Adele, meanwhile, is clearly trying to divine a fine line between being ours and being herself – 60 million album sales in though, that may be too treacherous a high-wire feat even for her.

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