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Adele And The League Of Her Own…

With ‘30’ releasing to rave reviews, Adele continues to buck every trend and defy expectations

Amit Vaidya Nov 19, 2021


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Let’s get this out of the way. 30 is a monumental achievement in today’s time. Adele has managed to create an album that speaks the brutal truth, engages with a larger audience and also manages to garner some of the best reviews of her career. Do you know how difficult that is to accomplish?

Next week, we’re certain to hear about all the records the singer breaks (or possibly doesn’t), as the market continues to change. Yet despite every attempt for the music industry to pivot in one direction, Adele seems to continue to buck every trend that exists and defy every expectation along the way.

Case in point, her CBS/Oprah special Adele: One Night Only which garnered 10 million viewers on network primetime television this past Sunday, second only to the Super Bowl this entire year. Yes, Adele’s special delivered the highest ratings for an entertainment special, even higher than this year’s Oscars telecast.

This is something Bieliebers, Swifties or even the A.R.M.Y. have been unable to rack up despite heavily promoted appearances or specials. So what makes Adele stand apart?

Well first things first, she’s not everywhere. Rarely between albums do we see the singer anywhere really (except for that random pop-up appearance hosting SNL). She almost has never collaborated or been featured musically with other artists during her off cycles, rarely takes part in other social media campaigns and almost exclusively only indulges with fans when she is promoting her latest project.

In many ways, by following the road less traveled, Adele has been able to keep our interest because she’s not in our stream of consciousness all the time. Think about it. Ever since her 19 breakthrough, with each album, we’ve seen her come out stronger, bigger, and more adored than before.

21 was so massive 10 years ago that Adele was right to think she no longer could really feel close to those songs. 25 started off with the highest one-week sales of any album in the US, selling more than 3.3 million copies in its first week.

It’s no surprise then that “Easy On Me,” her first single from 30 skyrocketed last month to number one on the charts upon arrival. But unlike Drake or Taylor Swift — probably the only other two artists on the planet capable of drawing similar numbers to the Brit — the song is still at the top spot. At a time when audiences’ attention spans are waver thin and every week there is a new collaboration track being released by The Weeknd or Justin Bieber or Cardi B, to have that kind of staying power is something extraordinary.

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How big has “Easy On Me” actually been? Radio stations that have been traditionally playing hits from Doja Cat, Ed Sheeran, The Weeknd and Bieber are now interspersing the modern pop hits with Adele’s very adult, very classic pop hit. And Top 40 isn’t the only place she’s getting love. Besides the to-be-expected Adult Contemporary and Adult Top 40, she’s also getting airplay on Adult R&B and Rhythmic Top 40, not to mention unlicensed remixes of the song garnering her airtime on Dance stations. Programmers from R&B stations had so many requests coming in despite their initial hesitation to include the song but they realized “Easy On Me” fit perfectly onto their present slate of tracks. And now with the release of the album, the deluxe edition features a duet version of the hit with country fave Chris Stapleton and the song will now go for adds in country radio and charts.

This would all seem like a lot if this was the first time Adele was achieving any of these feats. She actually accomplished all of these already 10 years ago with the release of “Rolling In The Deep” and then again five years ago with “Hello,” Adele has found a way to be a true multi-genre, cross-hyphenated superstar.

In an era where segregation is the way of the airwaves, for an artist to accomplish this without any type of artistic pandering, (something both Drake and Swift have been doing as of late) it’s remarkable to see that a woman steadfast in sharing her truth, as authentically as possible is able to do just that.

It actually harkens back to a time back from the Seventies to the early Nineties when music often felt genre-blind and Top 40 was truly a cross-cultural reflection of society. Artists like Hall & Oates, Simply Red, George Michael and Lisa Stansfield could score number one hits on Black Radio, while artists like Terence Trent D’Arby (who now goes by Sananda Maitreya), Tracy Chapman and Lenny Kravitz could top the rock charts.

As a result of the diversity of sounds and styles, all artists thrived and for listeners, everyone got to sing along to the same hit songs. There was a collective experience – one that wasn’t dictated by artists following formulas – but rather them being themselves and celebrating their uniqueness, whatever that meant. These days, except for the occasional breakout hit (usually spawned by some social media trend like “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X managed a couple of years back), there are very few artists that garner the attention of such a large diverse audience base. Even if the artists themselves are perhaps more unique today, the music doesn’t offer the same variety it once did.

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Adele has truly been able to create a league of her own because she has been able to make herself and her music fit into any box. Because she’s chosen (and been allowed) to not define herself or her music, the songs are able to get the room to be discovered as and where they deserve to – not pushed by industry execs, radio stations or even her loyal fans.

Adele in many ways mirrors the accrued adoration that exists today for Sade. Sade’s music lived in a world of its own from the get-go in the Eighties. It somehow fit into various playlists and nobody seemed to mind it. As of late, there has been a movement for Sade to be seen as a black icon, something no person over the age of 40 would ever think of as the first tag for the woman/or her band, as they were ageless, timeless and just exuded pure soul. You could be from anywhere in the world, you just knew and dug Sade.

Today, Adele stands very much in that same vortex – appealing to a mass audience, across sections of a global audience that seems to care very little about who she is or where she’s from but far more interested in what she has to say and sing.

It’s almost certain 30 will become yet another heavily-celebrated critical and commercial (not to mention frontrunner at the Grammys next year for sure) success for the artist. Songs like “Cry Your Heart Out” and “To Be Loved” are going to become staples of the singer’s live performance repertoire. “Hold On” and “I Drink Wine” will become sing-along classics for generations to come. Folks will look back on late 2021 and likely all of 2022 as yet another era in the singer’s landmark journey to find herself and to share what she’s discovered, realized and wishes to share then, through her voice and the music.

Adele is in a league of her own. She’s not just the woman you go to listen to as your “ugly cry record”, but the one you go with to experience the depths of beauty and life with…no matter what.

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