If you’re a music lover of a certain persuasion you will doubtless be touching yourself frantically in anticipation of the huge drop scheduled for this Friday. In a way it’s a shame it’s not a Friday the 13th as that would offer some additional poetry to the occasion, but as far as everything else is concerned this Friday will be a return to business as usual; in this case infrequent, yet massive. Fans started dribbling wee a couple of weeks ago when huge ‘30’ signs started appearing on landmark buildings in big cities around the world. That says a lot, kind of the opposite to the sort of artistic statement Banksy is trying to make, which is far subtler but still manages to say much more. The ‘30’ signs were about as subtle as a pedicurist with a chainsaw – they were designed for the maximum impact possible on as many people who could bother to be bothered with them. This was a big sell on a big scale, and if you are bothered about someone like Adele then you would have had no option but to shoot up (not intravenously) and pay attention. It’s really quite clever. And, as I may have mentioned, big. But we’ll have to see, and hear, whether it turns out to be a great deal much more than that.
Adele is one of the lucky ones. So many singers like her must simply fall through the gaps and spend their careers doing half cut karaoke tours of south coast LGBTQ pubs or, depending on their kind of luck, as backing singers for acts on the second-tier revival circuit; bouncing around with Tony Hadley between the Skegness Butlins and the Watford Colosseum. Luck is just as important as talent when it comes to success in the music business, and you’d hope that Adele remembers that (I’m pretty sure she would, she doesn’t come across as a total twat), not that one could deny for a second that she has a handy pair of lungs and that at close range she could probably clean shave a chimpanzee with that voice of hers. Apart from luck and a splash of fortunate timing (aka – also luck), her modus operandi is all about moving from a whisper to a shout, a stroke then a slap, a baste then a batter. It wasn’t quite so clear cut when she started out but, by her second album, ‘21’, the battle plan was all set up and ready to go. And it is rightly much harder to be as easily dismissive of Adele as it is of, say, Ed Sheeran: her approach has a broadly broader appeal and if you are ever bored enough to dissect any of Sheeran’s songs you’d see they’re principally designed to sate the appetite of anyone who has no idea what other, inevitably better, music sounds like.
Part of the problem with Adele’s success, however, is that she found her magical formula so early on and that in realising how well it worked and how many people she had seduced with it she just decided to play stick; the need to twist and take a risk left twitching by the wayside. Her first single from the last album, ‘25’, was called ‘Hello’ and it featured a chorus of her pretty much shouting at herself. The video has been watched nearly 3 billion times on YouTube, but don’t be fooled – this happened not because the song was particularly good but rather because it was particularly Adele: that’s the sales pitch: buy me, I’m Adele. And you don’t need to really listen to her lyrics anymore because they are almost always about breaking up. No-one has ever made so much money by disappearing for a few years, breaking up with someone and then coming back with the shards and snot of separation sellotaped back together as a torch song for those who don’t expect too much from much else. Some chumps gasp that her music has saved them, but I bet they’d settle for the cash instead, if it was on offer. Is Adele therefore some kind of potted, easy access emotional therapy for the perpetually heart-broken? And does it matter, since she seems so nice, so grounded, so very ‘us’?
And that’s the rub. I like Adele. For all that the ease of her meteoric rise pains me I find it very hard to hold a grudge. You’d sooner find me volunteering to be strip searched in a Turkish jail than at the front row of an Ed Sheeran concert, but if you offered me a spare ticket to an Adele gig I’d probably give it a go. Or to put it another way: I’d enjoy it for a while, but I wouldn’t feel bad if I had to leave half-way through. Not that she’d care; not care all the way to the bank. So, this Friday she officially releases her new single – ‘Easy On Me’, a title which could be, and has been, interpreted in several different ways. But why would you waste your breathe – it’ll be about a break-up. The snippet of video she snuck out as a suspender belt teaser is textbook Adele: all moody monochrome, vast eyes and upmarket salon nails. The music is nothing spectacular, though it will serve as an entrée to an album which will sell millions and make many more millions on top. There will be a huge tour (to which no-one will offer me a free ticket) accompanied by huge volumes of tears and lighter fluid and then, if the usual pattern is to be followed, all the excitement will cause the break-up of her latest relationship, which will thence give her material for her next album: ‘36’. And so on.
Perhaps the only part that I find genuinely hard to swallow is Adele’s explanation for her new album. It seems she is not releasing it to please the fans that idolise her, or to reignite the momentum of her career, or to flex that big, beefy voice of hers, or even just to make a shit load of cash. No, instead she has used this opportunity to release an album that will be able to explain to her nine year old son why she has divorced his father. That seems a very unusual explanation and I think it takes the piss a touch too much. Could she not just tell him herself; sit down on the end of his enormous bed, with a cup of cocoa and explain that somehow daddy and mummy stopped wanting to be with each other but that it isn’t his fault and that they both still love him very, very much. Etc, etc. Surely her son would get the picture a lot faster than by having to listen all the way through her album several times (maybe he’ll get free streaming) to decipher every flick of sadness and every nuance of regret. Or will he watch that snippet of video and quite reasonably ask himself “what has that got to do with the other thing, it looks more like a nail salon and eyelash advert”. The point is: why would people want to hear about the intricacies of her divorce settlement, as expressed in words that a nine year old would understand? I like Adele, but I’m not buying that. Perhaps next time she could try writing some more simple, Sheeran style songs about doing vodka shots and dying her pubes bright green. By a fire. In a field. Whatever the case, she’s about to be everywhere all over again. Enjoy her fourth push.
G B Hewitt. 14.10.2021