MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 61: ADELE

‘…how I felt when I wrote 21, I wouldn’t want to feel again. It was horrible. I was miserable, I was lonely, I was sad, I was angry, I was bitter. I thought I was going to be single for the rest of my life. I thought I was never going to love again. It’s not worth it. Well, it was worth it, because, obviously, of what’s gone on. But I’m not willing to feel like that to write a song again. I’m not…If I wanted to just be famous, like be a celebrity, then I wouldn’t do music, because everything else I’ve been offered would probably make me more famous than I am just with my music. Commercials, being the face of brands, nail varnishes, shoes, bags, fashion lines, beauty ranges, hair products, being in movies, being the face of a car, designing watches, food ranges, buildings, airlines, book deals. I’ve been offered everything. And I don’t want to water myself down. I want to do one thing. I want to make something. I don’t want to be the face of anything…’

If I am being completely honest, this upcoming blog post would have to be the one, out of all the 60 (61st currently right now) I have undertaken, where I’ve been literally worried and scared to do. I know I shouldn’t really be worried, because this post is just one mere man’s opinion, but in all honesty, I just can’t help it. Maybe it’s because Adele is one of the most popular British icons in British music history, and she has one of the most emotive, poignant and prolific voices ever, and therefore whatever I say won’t ever be enough to say about one of the 21st century’s most impactful and articulate singer-songwriters this generation have ever seen. Or maybe it’s just nerves, and this blog post is simultaneously the one where I’m prepared to a point, but also neither prepared at all, all at the same time. Regardless, this blog post about Adele would have to be, like U2, the one where people would automatically slot into their list of influential artists- if people even had lists nowadays. Across every person’s musical preferences, enjoyable melodies, and genres that they gravitate towards over the years, one cannot deny the importance, influence and impact Adele has had across her 3 albums, on music history. This blog post quite possibly can be the shortest blog yet that I’ve ever written (what can be said that hasn’t been said already by publications and news articles online from songfacts, songmeanings and medium.com, to NPR, Rollingstone and video interview on the youtube site Skavlan), but also simultaneously one of the most heartfelt, emotive and poignant that has ever been written within my 1 and a half year musical journey from February 2019 till now. For we all know Adele’s vocals can pierce depths of our hearts that only certain people can go- for that is why her albums are such relatable for people, and her down-to-earth atmosphere she portrays in video interviews is certainly contagious and a joy to watch. We are reminded through Adele’s career that these people we call musicians (that we often place on a pedestal) are in fact humans like me and you. They have faults, they’re not some super-people that we often idolise and believe they can do no wrong. It is in these moments of vulnerability in interviews that we see the transparency of these artists, and we respect these people whose music we listen to, all the more.

Adele’s songs have travelled the globe, entered into the hearts and minds of people around the world, and though I myself haven’t been as familiar with Adele’s music when she unveiled her albums in 2008, 2011 and 2015, even I know that her impact and influence is certainly unparalleled when compared to any other female pop/singer-songwriter in the modern music history within the last 10 – 15 years (I’d have to say the only couple of female musicians/rivals to Adele during that time, would have to be Taylor Swift and PINK). It doesn’t take a genius to know that Adele’s songs have made pop fascinating once again- her first couple of albums were created when Taylor Swift was still heavily involved with the country music genre, before she took a detour into pop territory from 2014’s 1989 onward. And even if Adele doesn’t make any more music in the near future (her last album 25 was given to us in 2015, with no year in sight for her new album, because of COVID-19), her three albums and three albums alone are more reasons that enough for her music to be inspirational and challenging to people who hear it. From songs like ‘Hello’, ‘Make You Feel My Love’, ‘Rolling in the Deep’ and ‘Someone Like You’, to ‘Skyfall’, ‘When We Were Young’, ‘Water Under the Bridge’ and ‘Sweetest Devotion’, to name a few; this has been quite the journey for Britain’s most successful female artist in…well, ever- British artists like Jess Glynne, Ellie Goulding, Amy Winehouse, Dido, Jessie J, Susan Boyle and Little Mix have all had success not only in their home countries of Britain but also around the world, but none can compare to the impact and influence of Adele!

‘…I listen to music as a fan, for the outlet of my emotions and stuff like that. So the fact that people seem to be listening to my music for the same thing, or react to it in the same way I do with certain artists and bands, it’s really wonderful, and that’s why I like to put my music out there. Obviously, I hope that I bring joy to people’s lives, not just sadness. And I find that most people feel quite relaxed around me. I’ve met a couple that, have been a bit hysterical — like, uncontrollable shaking and stuff like that. But I’m like, “C’mon. Stop it. It’s just me. I’m not Britney. What’re you doing?” …’
‘…I don’t think stage fright is important, but I think it’s really important that you don’t think you’re great. Because once you get to that point, you just f*** everything up. You think that everyone’s going to think you’re great all the time, and that’s rubbish. Artists and bands that I’ve grown up loving, they get a certain amount of success and they’re like, “Oh, this is easy.” And I’m like, “I don’t like you anymore. I like your music, but I don’t like you.” And if you don’t like the person, why are you going to let them into your life? It’s a whole package, which is what I think an artist should be. With my stage fright, I just don’t want to let people down. I get so nervous onstage that I don’t have the guts to improvise or anything like that. But also, you know when you go to a show of someone that you love, and they play a record that you absolutely love, but they play it so many different ways that you can’t even sing along? One of my favourite things about going to a gig and, doing a gig, is the singalongs — the crowd gets to sing with you and you get to sing with the artist. Like, that’s one of my favourite things personally. So I would never want to perform a song completely differently. I mean, imagine if I started doing a bashment version of “Hello.” Everyone would be like, “What?” …’
‘…I have the same morals that I’ve always had, and his dad [my son’s dad] is a really wonderful man. You know, we believe that our children should have opinions, and that they should have a choice, so we’re kind of instilling that now. He will always know why he gets to live such a wonderful life, ’cause I don’t want him thinking that it just happens. And he will always know about my upbringing and the struggles that my mum had and that my aunties had. I have struggles too, which are very different to the struggles that my family had, but I don’t want him to only know my struggles. In terms of the most things that people worry about — which is being able to support themselves — I don’t want him thinking that comes for free…’

Adele started off her musical career in 2008 with the unveiling of 19, and though this album isn’t as big, bold and popular as her subsequent albums 21 and 25; her first offering of music nevertheless paved the way for such a powerful artist to continue delivering powerful hits as the years rolled on. ‘Daydreamer’, the first song on 19, and quite possibly one of the most heartfelt songs Adele has written in her early career, is a track specifically about Adele’s personal life- her first serious boyfriend that she professed her love to, was in fact bisexual, and though they tried to make such a relationship work, his constant cheating on her (with a lot of her gay friends) led to a messy breakup, and such a song ‘Daydreamer’, was a result of a tumultuous time during her own life. ‘Daydreamer’ is a reminder that it is ok to dream, to look beyond what is physically in the here and now, and wishing that something else would be your reality, or maybe a hopeful reality in the future. ‘Chasing Pavements’, about a similar relationship that Adele had- her first serious one that lasted 4 months during that particular time as well, also brings to the fore what Adele has pondered and learnt post-breakup. A song that is very much a hopeful one- wishing for said relationship to continue when all the signs point to it breaking down, we see such a relationship as being something like this- you miss it and wish you were in it, when you’re not; and you hate the relationship and want out, when you in fact are inside. As Adele relays to us in her own words in The Sun newspaper in 2008, ‘…that song is about should I give up or should I just keep trying to run after you when there’s nothing there? I was only with him for four months but when I signed my record deal I had to write an album, as I hardly had any songs, so I wrote about him. I couldn’t write songs for ages because I found it really hard writing songs for fun or writing them because someone had invested a lot of money and time in me. I just couldn’t do it. And then I met my ex-boyfriend and it was great to begin with and then it was really sh—y. And then I wrote about ten songs in about five weeks. I love him still and I got an album out of him. I used him more than he used me. And he loves it. It’s not bitter. He loves it when the song comes on the radio. He says: ‘It’s about me.’ And I’m like, ‘It’s a song about heartbreak, you fool!’ …’ Both ‘Daydreamer’ and ‘Chasing Pavements’ are the cornerstones and the central thematic elements surrounding 19– an album about heartbreak, and a lot of it. It is a reminder that sometimes life is messy, and often at times, an album about a breakup, though as depressing as it can be for the listener, can be very cathartic, heartfelt, healing and hopeful for the writer of the songs- in this case, Adele herself. And though both these songs aforementioned are the standouts, for me, on 19, Adele continues to bring to us heartfelt melodies on the album that tug at our beings and remind us all that it is ok to feel these intense feelings, and realise things about yourself and other people, through these difficult experiences.

‘Crazy For You’ is a tender, acoustical love song between two people hopelessly in devotion to each other, while ‘Cold Shoulder’ is an upbeat string-heavy melodic anthem about feelings that were to initially occur when you realise your significant other is cheating- and you suddenly wish that you can have whatever it is the other person has that makes your significant other cheat on them, instead of being faithful to you. ‘Melt My Heart to Stone’ is a wishing/hopeful track, about the persona and their utter devotion and love for someone, in a scenario that is often seen to be one that is unrequited- the persona in the track bearing their soul and exposing their love for someone, most likely not even given in return; while songs like ‘Make You Feel My Love’ and ‘Hometown Glory’ round out the standout songs present on 19– the former being a cover song, originally by Bob Dylan, and the latter a heartfelt piano-strings melody, a song that depicts the bittersweet beauty of life that is lived in Adele’s hometown- London. A song that was written and sung in protest of her very own mother’s attempts to move Adele out of London for the purpose of her university, this track, originally unveiled in 2007, is a reminder of the glitz, glamour and the special sentimentality that comes from staying in a place where you grew up in- in Adele’s case, it’s London!

After 19, everything changed for Adele. And I won’t necessarily recount everything that has happened since her 2008 debut- you have Wikipedia for that, but what I will say is this- even if you’re not really a fan of Adele’s music, I’m sure you all have been familiar with a lot of her songs throughout the years- most of them coming from her latest 2 albums 21 and 25. ‘Rolling in the Deep’ is a song of contentment that comes when a breakup happens- and a reminder that often, breakups in relationships, be it romantic, platonic or otherwise, can often be a good thing if you know that whatever that was had between two people isn’t there anymore, for whatever reason- the song itself is lively, rousing, jovial, upbeat and full of acoustics and country-style pop elements, as ‘Rolling In the Deep’ starts off a cascade of powerful hits, encompassing both her second and third albums as we see a transformation occur in Adele, from a heartbroken state earlier on in her career, to one of peace, love and commitment, where we see her with her husband and kid, in recent years and  memory. ‘Turning Tables’ is a song about female empowerment as Adele stands firm in her own identity and breaks up with her boyfriend, one that has been constantly ‘turning tables’ on her- being the person in the relationship that’s always expecting things and wanting things done in a way that is emotionally draining and physically exhausting; while songs like ‘Set Fire to the Rain’ and ‘Someone Like You’ are other tracks on 21 that have become standout songs throughout Adele’s career as a whole. ‘Set Fire to the Rain’ is a very emotionally intense track- whether or not it’s based on personal experience, the persona in the song admits that they love someone- and yet they have been hurt in an emotional way, by this person. Setting fire to the rain is setting fire to moments in their shared history, and being reminded that before new beginnings can occur, ‘fire’ needs to be set to the things of previous times and moments- for when you can finally move on, is when you acknowledge the good, and bad, bits of said previous relationship, and resting in the knowledge that whatever transpires, will ultimately make us all much more resilient and a lot less gullible into the future. ‘Someone Like You’, the album ender on 21, is a song full of hope, enthusiasm and looking forward with anticipation and expectation- letting someone go for real, and wishing only the best for them. It is only when people let go of the past- in all it’s hurts, pains, triumphs and trials, that we can truly move on and embrace whatever comes next.

With Adele being in the music industry for more than 10 years- 19 was first unveiled to us in 2008; what has been seen within this time is nothing short of remarkable. Adele’s music has and will continue to have relevance in a society today, now more than ever. If I can speak honestly, I’m not that entirely well-versed on Adele and her songs as a whole prior to this week, and that’s ok. I don’t always have to come across as a scholar on musical matters of a certain artist in question, for me to appreciate that particular artist’s music, full stop. Adele’s music is such as this to me- I’ve heard the chart-topping songs. Yes, you know them- ‘Hello’, ‘Send My Love’, ‘When We Were Young’, ‘Water Under the Bridge’, ‘Sweetest Devotion’, ‘Million Years Ago’, ‘Skyfall’, ‘All I Ask’;  to name a few, and I’m sure there are much, much more hits I’ve missed. And for me to write an expose about each of these songs can seem a little pointless. Sort of how I wrote in my U2 post, my Switchfoot post and my Bryan Adams post before, I’ll say this again- this time about Adele. A lot can happen in 5 years- the time spanning both 21 and 25 inclusively. You can grow up from a kid to now. Live your teenage life. You can experience all these life events. Wars can happen. You can be married, have kids, change jobs and careers multiple times. Or you can witness and marvel at the fact that Adele is one of the many artists that have placed their own stamp on music in general. Just like how U2 and their ministry, if you will, has placed Irish music a whole on the map for people to take notice (and Irish styled and Celtic genre music, but that’s another blog entirely!); Adele’s songs and her presence in the industry, has given hope and encouragement to many female artists everywhere- all the while delivering a sense of pop that is enjoyable and engaging, in a modern setting where modern, mainstream pop music is anything but. Adele’s signature raspy voice; has worked for Adele all this time. And while at this moment, another popular crossover artist Lauren Daigle has come into the fold (sounding exactly like Adele, enthusiastic and passionate too!); Adele’s songs, as melancholy and heartfelt as they sound, nevertheless present a smorgasbord of radio hits that have leapt into the hearts and minds of us all over the years. Adele’s songs have a sense of honesty and familiarity to them, even if you’ve only heard them for a few times over.

‘…I have a little curiosity about my past now that I’m a grown up. We’re not kids anymore and stuff like that. It’s kind of a hello to all my old friends, all the relationships I’ve had, all my old teachers, my little me when I was 7 or 8, and also a bit of a hello to all my fans because I’ve been gone for so long…’ ‘…The song is about hurting someone’s feelings but it’s also about trying to stay in touch with myself, which sometimes can be a little bit hard to do. It’s about a yearning for the other side of me. When I’m away, I really, really miss my life at home. The way that I feel when I’m not in England, is… desperation. I can’t breathe anywhere else. I’m so attached to my whole life here. I get worked up that I’m missing out on things. So Hello is about wanting to be at home and wanting to reach out to everyone I’ve ever hurt – including myself – and apologize for it…’ [story behind HELLO]

‘…It sounds obvious, but I think you only learn to love again when you fall in love again. I’m in that place. My love is deep and true with my man, and that puts me in a position where I can finally reach out a hand to the ex. Let him know I’m over it…’ [story behind SEND MY LOVE]

‘…it was based on us being older, and being at a party at this house, and seeing everyone that you’ve ever fallen out with, everyone that you’ve ever loved, everyone that you’ve never loved, and stuff like that, where you can’t find the time to be in each other lives. And you’re all thrown together at this party when you’re like 50, and it doesn’t matter and you have so much fun and you feel like you’re 15 again. So that’s the vibe of it really…’ [story behind WHEN WE WERE YOUNG]

‘…It’s about making a relationship work, about wanting to make a relationship work. All relationships are up and down, and that’s part of a relationship – the tapestry of it and the muddiness of it. That’s part of it, and that’s as thrilling for me as the kicks I used to get out of a relationship falling apart. Overcoming those things – I think they make me feel powerful. They make me feel loved by him [my husband] and make me love him more when we overcome stuff. I would much rather do that than just sit in the dark…’ [story behind WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE]

‘…the song is all about my kid. The way I’ve described it is that something much bigger has happened in my life. I love that my life is now about someone else…’ ‘…I was always looking for the feeling that he gives me, and I was looking for it everywhere in the wrong places having no idea that I would find it in having a child. He hit me like an explosion. It’s the most shocking thing when you have a child…’ [story behind SWEETEST DEVOTION]

Adele’s music is certainly unparalleled, and a reminder that such songs aforementioned above (all from 25), are melodies that, 5 years later, still impact, challenge and are hopefully thoroughly enjoyed by people around the world. Adele’s music has given myself a reminder never to assume anything about anyone- because from first glance, you’d assume Adele’s chart-topping songs, by a country mile, are melodies like ‘Rolling In the Deep’, ‘Hello’, ‘Someone Like You’ and ‘When We Were Young’, because that’s all that I knew, before going into this. That cannot be further from the truth- Adele’s music is so much more than the singles that chart the radio, as with any artist. I’ve mentioned this before in many of my other blog posts, and I will reiterate this here too- the key to an artist’s impact is not the realness and the catalyst that their chart-topping songs can have on society, but rather, the songs that seemingly go under the radar, that when no one’s looking, a song that may not be as well known, can touch someone’s life in a radical and profound way, altering their life for the better. For Adele’s music (at least for me), songs like ‘I Miss You’ (the general intimacy of a relationship, and the longing to know and be known by someone fully, on a soul-to-soul level), ‘Remedy’ (being the remedy for someone in their time of need, the song being sung from Adele’s POV for her child), ‘Million Years Ago’ (having regrets when you’re younger, and realising the things that could’ve happened, if you lived life to the full!) and ‘All I Ask’ (longing for endings of things- relationships, friendships etc., to matter and translate into a season of life where fond memories can be had); all reminded me that a lesser known song isn’t a lesser known song because of its quality. Maybe in another universe, these songs that were in fact under the radar may have been the chart-toppers and vice versa. Therefore, all songs have the same potential of impacting someone’s life, not just the ‘singles’. Even the artist in general, and the lives they lead, can also give inspiration to the listener of said songs too, and Adele’s lifestyle aside from music, is something to admire about- her non-presence on social media and the internet, is something to be commended for- it is a reminder to not always be caught up in the social media that can bring down face-to-face relationships, and that a lack of social media in someone’s life can sometimes be a good thing. Adele’s songs have revolutionised British music for the most part, and her songs are still continuing to have a powerful impact in society today. There’s even a video floating around on youtube about a parody of ‘Hello’- this time the song is created by youtuber and online sensation Chris Mann, and discussing not about making amends in people’s lives, but about the frustration about COVID-19, and everything that comes along with staying at home. It is a reminder than songs certainly cross stylistic boundaries, and a song that has had a lot of parodies, can still impact and influence even then. ‘Hello’ in my own opinion book, is the song that everyone knows the most from Adele, regardless of whether you know her music or not!

‘…You know, I went to the school of life. I’m not particularly smart in terms of education. I’m a smart lady, though — I like learning about things, and I make decisions based on knowledge rather than on a whim. But sometimes I feel a bit out of my depth, and I blame that on where I’m from — and, you know, it’s not that. I’m very proud that I’m from Tottenham. I don’t live there anymore, and I don’t go back that often, but I’m very proud that I’m from there. It’s completely made me who I am, and I think it’s one of the reasons that I’ve managed to hold on to myself and keep myself together. We’re very humble in Tottenham…’

It is in these interviews and interview quotes, like the one above, where Adele gets candid and real, that I can relate to her music all the more. And though I assume that Adele herself isn’t much of a public person as other famous celebrities, her songs nevertheless have been created for a public space, and songs that can transform a public space if we can see past the British-style piano-and-string atmosphere that most of Adele’s music has…which isn’t a bad thing, not at all. Adele’s music has worked for her so far- see the page on Wikipedia about her awards and achievements throughout her music career, and you’ll see what I mean. Her music is real, honest and raw, that is favourable and poignant in a sense that people are drawn to it. And though Adele’s music in a sense still hasn’t reached the levels (vocal power) of artists like Aretha Franklin or Celine Dion, yet; Adele’s songs nevertheless come close. And that’s ok. Music from different time periods (and different musical styles) strike a chord with different people, and it is in these differences in opinion about which genre and decade connects with us the most, that we can find a way to at least see the merit in certain artists and songs over the course of music as history. And to tell you the truth- I didn’t really realise Adele’s actual fame and sheer amount of respect given by the general public, until I undertook this blog post. And maybe that means I’ve lived more of a sheltered life than I would care to imagine, but all in all- Adele’s songs, especially her singles, define the culture and time period in which they were in- British pop.

From songs like ‘Hello’ and ‘Rolling in the Deep’, to ‘Water Under the Bridge’, ‘Set Fire to the Rain’, ‘When We Were Young’, ‘Make You Feel My Love’,’ Someone Like You’ and ‘Turning Tables’, to name a few (even ‘Skyfall’, a song written by Adele especially for the soundtrack of the James Bond movie of the same name!); Adele’s career has been littered with hope, encouragement, confrontation and realness not necessarily seen in music full-stop. Her songs have spoken volumes to where she has been in her life upon the release dates of each of these albums. A new one, suspected to come out in 2020, is one such album people in general have been anticipating. And as we realise that good music takes time, we can nevertheless be content with what we have at this moment- all of Adele’s songs, on repeat, in various Spotify playlists from people around the world. Adele’s songs have challenged us all on this journey of life so far, and if this upcoming album is anything like half of what the albums 21 and 25 are, then we’re in for a real treat.

Does Adele make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Best Influential Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Has this very popular British artist delivered music that can transcend walks of life and maybe even walks of religion as well? Has there been some songs that have spoken to you about yourself or maybe God Almighty in the process? Famous for songs like ‘Hello’, ‘Rolling in the Deep’, ‘Make You Feel My Love’ and ‘Send My Love’ (to name a few); is there are song that has connected with you that is a little lesser known to the public? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

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